It has also profoundly influenced the lives of dozens of aides who've worked for the program, most of them students at a crossroads in their lives.
Warren Beales and Trish (Ducker) Beales, who worked together in Adaptive P.E. after earning Psychology degrees at UC San Diego, went back to school to become teachers. They also got married and are the proud parents of Jenna Alexandra. Warren teaches 2nd grade at Bacich elementary in Kentfield, and Trish is in Special Education in the Novato School District.
Cindy Gleason, who has worked with the program since 1995 while earning degrees at College of Marin and at San Francisco State, heads the list -- she's just enrolled at UCLA Medical School.
Cindy Gleason also was a tutor in the Disabled Students study skills lab.
"I may be leaving Adaptive P.E.," says Cindy, "but I understand that, deep inside, Adaptive P.E. will never leave me. Every day I've spent with this incredible group of people has been like receiving a gift, over and over again. It was my involvement in our program which initially led me to consider pursuing a medical education. I wanted to continue receiving that gift, which I just mentioned, for as long as possible. Working here provided a direction and focus for my life."
Cindy feels that she has a great head start on the "people aspects" of health care.
"I saw a documentary about medical students," she recalls, "in which they ask a guy what the most difficult part of school had been for him. He replied that touching people for the first time had been very hard. I could only smile and think of how lucky I'd been to have been a part of our little group at College of Marin. Every moment here has been an experience that is responsible for guiding my growth as a young adult and a future physician."
Erin Lee is now a social worker with disabled adults in Ukiah, with a program called Linkages, arranging services and adaptive equipment that keeps people independent and living in their own homes, but she started in the field as a volunteer.
"I walked into Adaptive P.E. entirely by accident," Erin recalls. "I was taking a work experience psychology class back in 1995, and we were given a list of programs and organizations to pick from. The Adaptive P.E. Program was the only choice on that list that didn't have to do with dirty diapers."
After a semester of volunteering, Erin was hired and remained with the program for several years.
"I think that the program is a healing center," she now says. "To the people who've spent time there, they know. It is an inspiring place. There is something there, a feeling, an energy, a vibe if you will, of nurturing and encouragement, of lighthearted exchange and acceptance, for sharing important news, personal triumphs and setbacks, breakthroughs and dreams."
Her memories of "growing up" in the program are vivid.
"Mostly, I just can't believe that they paid me to be there," she smiles. "I laughed so hard, every day. Sometimes I cried. I feel so privileged to have been a part of people's lives. To have been trusted, taken into confidences, been an ear, a shoulder, a cheerleader and a friend. And to have that in return, that's just plain wonderful."
Susan Martin also got an early start.
"I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school," recalls Susan, who is now a physical therapist, working with kids at Shriners Hospital for Children. "It was truly my first opportunity to work with the disabled. You are one of the people, George (writer George Barker), who probably influenced me the most. You taught me to look beyond the disability and to love the individual."
"It was a wonderful and somewhat of a life-altering experience for me," says Dianne Rose, a licensed massage therapist and certified Pilates teacher with her own studio in Miami. "It opened a door for me and gave me the confidence to pursue the work I love, helping people."
Trevor Greenwood, an Australian who married an American girl and is raising two children in Marin, is now a physical therapist with Kaiser.
Denise Caramagno is now a law student and a Victim Advocate with the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, and has also worked at the Family Violence Law Center in Oakland.
"I guess what I really came away from Adaptive P.E. with was a respect for disabled people, and understanding that anyone at any moment could become disabled, and an idea of the everyday barriers that a disabled person encounters, both physical and social," says Denise, who also has a degree in Women's Studies. "It was eye-opening. The whole experience really politicized me in a way."
The list of former aides who are now making a difference in the community is a long one: teachers Katie Snider (San Domenico), Mari Lazor (History, Marin Academy) and Joe Leet (high school Science, Daly City); physical therapists Trevor Greenwood, Kyria Hontalas and Dave Flynn; psychologist Carol Cokinos, and others far too numerous to mention.
"I think it was the best job I've ever had in terms of camaraderie and teamwork," says Samantha Abbott, now an organic farmer in Mendocino. "There was always a lot of love and laughter. I think I learned a bit about physical therapy type stuff, and am grateful for the experience of working with people who have suffered great adversity and are still living their lives fully. It helped put my problems in perspective!"
This photo hints at the quality of the (mostly-)young staff that's passed through the Adaptive Physical Education Program. Seven people in this year-old picture are currently enrolled in colleges, universities or training programs, and one is a full-time social worker for the disabled.
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