LifestyleLiving a Better Life


Adaptive sports help those living with physical limitations or disabilities enjoy the outdoors

Posted at 6:02 AM, Jun 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-18 08:41:16-04

NEW BOSTON, Mich. (WXYZ) — Being outside and active during the summer months is part of the Michigan experience. But for those living with a disability, it can be a challenge. However, more and more people are learning to overcome through adaptive sports.

Brett Kohler used to work out all the time.

But his car accident in November 2008 left him with a brain injury that forever changed his life.

“Before my accident and everything, I started fishing with my dad,” said Kohler, now 31.

Fishing was one of his passions. And it still is, despite his physical limitations.

With the help from special tree rehabilitation therapists and his father, he adapted his wheelchair so he can attach his rod and reel and then put his chair in standing mode to fish for the big one!

“When the weather’s nice out, I fish like once or twice a week,” explained Kohler.

He also learned to incorporate other sports, thanks to an adaptive sports experience he attended six years ago.

“I was able to ride a bike, which blew my mind at the time,” he smiled. “I thought bike riding was out of the question because of my wheelchair, but I came to find out they make trikes!”

“Show them your muscles. Come on, now. Good job! ”cheered Special Tree Recreation Therapist Kristin Claerhout.

She showed Bret how --with a little assistance on the turns – he could bike ride on his own.

Sometimes 3-wheel adaptive bikes can be covered by insurance, too.

“It’s great to watch people grow and explore and see what they can do,” said Claerhout.

Claerhout is organizing the sixth Annual Special Tree Adaptive Sports Experience on June 26 at Willow Metropark in New Boston for people of all limitations or disabilities.

In addition to fishing and biking, there will also be golfing, yoga, tennis and kayaking.

“One of [the] biggest things that excites us is someone says I can’t do that anymore. You don’t tell that to a rec therapist because we’ll show you how to do it. It’s just a little different. if you’re willing to give it a try, we’re here to help you,” she explained.

Claerhout said many people who suffer a traumatic injury to the brain or spinal cord often go through years of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy with rec therapy often coming last. But she said recreational therapy is about improving a person’s quality of life.

“It’s good for them, for their mind, body, and spirit. And Special Tree, it’s our heart. So, it’s all those things that help them return to that,” said Claerhout.

Bret was really having a ball and continues to enjoy adaptive sports. He even has his own bike now.

If you or someone you know might enjoy adaptive sports, mark your calendar!

Special Tree’s Adaptive Sport Experience is coming up:

6th Annual Adaptive Sports Experience presented by Special Tree
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Willow MetroPark at Washago Pond
23200 S. Huron Road, New Boston, MI
This is FREE and open to the public.
Pre-registration is required.
Please call or email Kristin Claerhout:
(800) 648-6885 x1080

Special Tree guests, please give the phrase “Science of Caring” at the park entrance for complimentary parking (which is normally $10).

Rain date is June 27, 2019.

Alicia Smith is the Morning Anchor at WXYZ-7 Action News in Detroit. She reports and produces the Living A Better Life series that airs weekly on Tuesdays. If you have a story idea about improving the mind, body, and spirit, please email her at with Living a Better Life story idea in the subject line. Thank you!