The Turnstone Center: Catering To Every Need For People With Disabilities

Last summer, Athletes Roll visited the Turnstone Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana for the US Power Soccer 2018 MK Battery Conference Cup Series. Turnstone recently hosted the power soccer tournament again this year, and they are now gearing up for an even bigger event: The 2019 IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier.

#87 Luke Labas and the Turnstone Flyers finished in 2nd at last year’s US Power Soccer Nationals.

The Turnstone Center was started by a group of sorority sister volunteers in the Fort Wayne area. Their initial work of teaching and caring for children with disabilities at bedsides has snowballed over the years to include a wide range of activities for all ages and types of disabilities. They currently offer competitive sports including the aforementioned power soccer, sled hockey, and wheelchair rugby alongside many recreational and therapeutic programs.

Turnstone’s shining achievement in recent years has been their work in blind and visually-impaired sports. Turnstone formed a partnership with the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) in 2015 to be the training facility for the USA Men’s Goalball Team. They now have a residency program for both the Men’s and Women’s Goalball squads on-site to help them stay at the top of their game. Turnstone is special in the Goalball community as they are the only facility in the US with a specialized Taraflex flooring matching the feel of the Paralympic Games.

The US Men’s and Women’s Goalball teams live and train at the Turnstone Center to prepare for international competition and the Paralympic Games (Credit: Turnstone Center)

This partnership has strengthened so much that Turnstone was selected to host the 2019 IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier, running from June 28th to July 10th. For Goalball, with a seven day competition from July 2-9, nations can qualify directly for the 2020 Paralympic Games. Lithuania and Turkey won the men’s and women’s sides respectively at the 2016 Games in Brazil with the United States placing in 2nd in Men’s and 3rd in Women’s. Judo on the other hand, which will take place over three days, July 3-5, will award points to build towards Paralympic qualification. Uzbekistan won three of seven gold medals on the Men’s side while China’s women won two of six in Brazil.

While Athletes Roll was at the Turnstone Center last year for the power soccer event, we were lucky to have met Turnstone’s Director of Outreach, Tina Acosta, who took us on a tour during a break in the action. To put it simply, we were blown away. We started the tour in the Plassman Athletic Center which housed the power soccer tournament in the four-court Fieldhouse, an 80 degree therapeutic pool, and a fitness center that includes a weight room with wheelchair-accessible workout equipment. The Plassman Athletic Center opened in 2015 and is the latest addition to the comprehensive services the Turnstone Center offers.

As we toured with Tina, we were shown several rooms for specialized care, an early learning center, and pediatric therapy. There are multisensory rooms for people with autism, an inclusive preschool with an accessible playground, and an adult day care and activity center for people with physical and mental disabilities. Tina initially ran the adult day care, but saw to the development of the athletics program on the side. She eventually turned full time to it, helping to bring Turnstone to the national stage.

Inspiration during Turnstone’s transition period often came from visits to the now-comparable Lakeshore Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Lakeshore is similarly home to high-level adaptive sports and recreation programs and actually joined in on the fun of the weekend, with their Lakeshore Power squad competing in the power soccer tournament.

Turnstone makes full use of their own campus and their surroundings to provide the best possible adaptive programs. (Credit: Turnstone Center)

We could hardly keep track of all of the awesome adaptive offerings ranging from recreational to competitive and elite through clinics, camps, and tournaments. Participants are able to find an activity that suits their lifestyle with sports including wheelchair basketball, goalball, boccia, and wheelchair tennis alongside adaptive recreation programs including kayaking, dance, and archery. We saw people of all abilities using the therapeutic pool and wheelchair workout equipment. There was a multi purpose room for dance classes and support groups for people with Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions as well as for caregivers.

The Turnstone Center highlights the work and lives of people with disabilities through major events throughout the year as well as in many ways every day. They host regular tournaments for their competitive teams and put on a showcase known as the DisAbilities Expo which they’ve been running for nine years. It’s their take on the nationally touring Abilities Expo that they witnessed in Indianapolis. They also highlight this population through art and photographs hanging on the wall. The art was produced by participants in their adult day care program while the photographs lining their walls feature their athletes and other participants of the center doing what they love.

Gardening spaces outside of the Turnstone Center are set at wheelchair height for full accessibility.

What was most striking to us was not the individual sport prowess or the recognition for their incredible programs, but rather the attention to detail. People with disabilities are often forgotten in the design and development of sports complexes with accessibility features added after the fact. Of course, a center designed for people with disabilities wouldn’t forget their target demographic, but we were continually amazed at each new detail we discovered. We found not just accessible bathrooms, but accessible locker rooms and showers, workout equipment for people in wheelchairs, an elevated gardening area for people in wheelchairs, accessible play areas, and a court for every adaptive sport imaginable. The power soccer tournament was terrific to attend on its own, but including this incredible facility it was a weekend we will always look back on fondly. Finding the perfect facility to host an adaptive sport competition can be tricky so an all-encompassing center like this is a vital resource for the area and the adaptive sports community. We appreciated the time Tina spent showing us around and answering our questions.  Her passion and love for the Turnstone Center was evident at every turn. Their motto is “creating possibilities”, and it is extremely clear that they live by this every day.

Click here to learn more about the Turnstone Center and the wide variety of programs they offer. Head to IBSAFortWayne2019.com for more information on the IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier and check out the upcoming livestream at IBSA’s YouTube page.

About Athletes Roll Staff

Adaptive sports clothing and media company promoting sports such as power soccer, wheelchair rugby and the Paralympics!

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