Philanthropy Awards 2012: Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association

Most recently updated: December 2020

GLASA’s Annual Twilight 5K Run, Walk and Roll isn’t your average race.

Those with physical and visual disabilities are able to race side-by-side with able-bodied athletes and compete to achieve something they might not have thought possible. GLASA‘s motto, after all, is “Let No One Sit on the Sidelines.”

Thanks to the hard work of nearly 70 volunteers, along with donations and support from sponsors, the success of the race has grown year after year. Executive Director Cindy Housner and Development Coordinator Cherie Hrusovsky were both integral to that growth and helped increase funds raised from 2010 to 2012 by a jaw-dropping 400 percent.

GLASA works to promote the development and well-being of youth and adults with physical or visual disabilities by providing inclusive recreational, fitness and competitive sports. Regardless of ability, any person has the chance to participate in sports programs offered by GLASA. And for every dollar raised, $.91 goes to funding these empowering programs.

What inspired you to found GLASA?

“I was very fortunate in that I had seen other athletes in other areas of the country who have disabilities and just how sports can truly change one’s life,” Housner says. “When I moved to this geographic area there were very few opportunities for individuals with physical or visual disabilities, especially in the suburbs. Really what inspired me was other individuals I had worked with in the past who had received so many benefits from being involved with sports and recreational opportunities.”

Please tell us one of your favorite success stories.

Eleven-year-old Ethan Burkhart’s story is one that Housner calls life-changing. “He didn’t know that he could do this type of event, and now he’s so excited to do other sports,” she says. “It’s helped his self-esteem at school and feeling good about himself.”

Ethan, who has spina bifida, was adamant about not racing in the annual 5K, but his mom, Jennifer, signed him up anyway. After days of protest, Ethan finally agreed to join his mom and brother in the race just as they were walking out the door, Jennifer explains on her blog.

Not only did Ethan race and have a great time, but he placed first in his division, youth male handcycle.

“As parents, you want to see your child be a part of something,” Jennifer wrote in a testimonial letter. “GLASA is changing his life and also changing the way his able-bodied peers view kids with disabilities.”

Ethan is now a freshman at the University of Arizona and is on their wheelchair track team (2020).

What do you love about your work with GLASA?

“To me the most important part of this race is the awareness that GLASA gives to the community at large that there are no barriers,” said Housner. “Our motto is ‘let no one sit on the sidelines’ and that’s what we want to show. We don’t want to leave anybody behind.”

By the numbers:

  • 2010: net income $4,799; 320 race participants
  • 2011: net income $15,811; 412 race participants
  • 2012: net income $21,192; more than 400 race participants

During COVID, GLASA held their first ever virtual Twilight Run, Walk and Roll with 135 participants. In March of 2020, GLASA successfully pivoted to virtual programming, serving new and existing participants in areas of overall conditioning, ab workouts, adaptive yoga, wheelchair tennis, and wheelchair and ambulatory track. Additionally, GLASA has hosted a number of special virtual programs with topics ranging from mental health, to nutrition and sport-specific instruction.

Here are updated statistics from GLASA, most recently from 2020:

  • 1,020 individuals served, of which 208 were injured veterans and 682 were children
  • 275 days of programming, 2411 program hours, 60 different locations, and 20 different sports offered
  • 100% of high school seniors went to college since 2014 (National average is 31%)
  • $0.90 of every dollar goes directly to GLASA athletes

MAD-philanthropy-awards-lead

This article is part of our 2012 Philanthropy Awards. See more of our winners here:

By the Hand Club for Kids
Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund
Girls in the Game
Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (GLASA)
Innovations for Learning
ProjectMusic
A Safe Haven
Spark Program