The Stand Up and Play Foundation is Above Par for Adaptive Sports
Following injuries stemming from military combat and a car accident caused by a drunk driver, Anthony Netto, found himself wheelchair bound. He got back into playing golf by developing the paramobile.
Following injuries stemming from military combat and a car accident caused by a drunk driver, Anthony Netto found himself wheelchair bound. Once an avid golfer, his friends urged him to get back into the game with adaptive gear. “Many golf courses think SoloRiders are [enough to be] ADA compliant but they are not truly adaptive for all. In fact, they are completely inadequate for a paraplegic like me because there is not proper belting,” Netto states. “We need to stand up to play and there was nothing on the market to do that that was suitable.” So, the self-proclaimed “stand-up guy” ─ pun intended! ─ developed a solution: the paramobile (also known as the paragolfer), a robust three-wheeled chair designed to tackle rugged terrains and allow individuals with mobility disabilities to safely achieve standing positions. He discovered that the innovative equipment lead to a higher level of independence and self-esteem.
Upping the Adaptive Golf Game
The revolution inspired Netto to launch the Stand Up and Play Foundation, aimed to help wheelchair users stand up to participate in sporting, artistic and other activities, or even just experience the empowerment of looking at one eye to eye. The volunteer-run endeavor presents paramobile recreation events ─ such as golf tournaments ─ to let all stand up and to raise funds to donate chairs to individuals, golf courses fitness centers and hospitals and/or rehabilitation facilities. In 2016 alone, the Stand Up and Play Foundation raised over $1 million. “We’re very proud to say that, last year, the foundation gave 53 chairs and that was through the help of various sponsors [including Carl’s Jr. and Hardees with Stars for Heroes], foundation activities and partnering foundations [like The Independence Fund].”
“The paramobile allows me to enjoy so many of the outdoor activities that I lost. I can play golf again, go to the beach with my grandchildren and use it in many places where I cannot walk. In a sense, it has given me back my legs.” -Anthony Netto
photo courtesy of Fairways for Warriors
Supporting Veterans with Disabilities
The organization is driven to support veterans. Tom Underground, founder of Fairways for Warriors, a Kissimmee-based nonprofit dedicated to providing a better quality of life to wounded service personnel through golf, says his partnership with the Stand Up and Play Foundation has taken hope, healing and camaraderie among wounded veterans to a whole new level ─ literally! Netto believes that outfitting veterans with paramobiles can, ultimately, fight the alarming rate of suicide among combat warriors. The first Floridian to have a paramobile, Thomas Michaud, a retired police chief who became disabled with multiple sclerosis, is also working to aid veterans. Michaud spearheads an annual Veteran’s Day fundraiser at his local course, Legends Golf & Country Club in Fort Myers, which has generated funds to donate a paramobile to a veteran for the past five years. He simply wanted others to experience the life-changing benefits of the paramobile as he did. “The paramobile allows me to enjoy so many of the outdoor activities that I lost. I can play golf again, go to the beach with my grandchildren and use it in many places where I cannot walk. In a sense, it has given me back my legs,”he says, of the device that’s granted him access to adventure, like on the Appalachian Trail, and everyday living, such as landscaping.
How to Score the Paramobile
Want to try a paramobile? Visit standupandplayfoundation.org to search the online database of paramobile-equipped sites, including 16 in Florida and 120 worldwide. The Stand Up and Play Foundation also coordinates paramobiles for loan for traveling individuals to, for example, play golf on vacation! “We should have 100 chairs in Florida, but we don’t yet,” says Netto, which is why he hopes people will become advocates for the paramobile simply by encouraging local sites to obtain one and/or host fundraisers (with donations to be matched by the foundation). Aside from golf, the Stand Up and Play Foundation has helped people enjoy skeet and trap shooting, fly fishing, trail walks and much more. Some users also rely on the paramobile to maintain careers, such as “farmers, horse breeders and people who work outdoors.” As is often the case with disability-related tools, the paramobile comes with a lofty price tag ($22,500 and up), but the benefits are priceless.
The paramobile promotes circulation and digestion, stretches tendons and ligaments, reduces spasticity and prevents bone density problems and other secondary complications, according to Netto. “Bed sores can cause infections and even death,” he says, but the paramobile offers an “active standing therapy.” And, of course, the priceless satisfaction of restored self-esteem. “I feel like I am able to live again [with the paramobile] and be a father to my children. My son and I can play a round of golf together and there is no disability because of the paramobile,” proclaims Netto, who believes the mission of the Stand Up and Play Foundation and its goal to motivate advocates and users is why he survived his traumatic injuries.