April 1, 2020
For the Thrill of It: Adaptive Go-Karts Fulfill the Need for Speed
On a bright, sunny afternoon, the sounds of revving engines and screeching tires vibrated through the air as drivers sped around a racetrack. Jockeying for position, the looks on their faces ranged from steely determination to pure joy. One driver made a point to wave at his biggest fan – who also happens to be his wife – each time he completed a loop.
When the race was over, the competitors transferred themselves out of the go-karts and into their waiting wheelchairs. They compared times, discussed strategy, ribbed each other good-naturedly, and reflected on how the experience made them feel.
“I’m a thrill seeker,” said Lisa Harrison. “I love fast. I love dangerous. I love risky. This was awesome to be able to get on the gas and go!”
This event, which was held at Overdrive Raceway in Colorado Springs, was made possible thanks to a national grant The Independence Center (The IC) received from the National Center for Independent Living (NCIL). Awarded to only five Centers for Independent Living (CILs) in the U.S., the grant provides funding through the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation for Path
to Empowerment to enhance the quality of life for people with spinal cord injury (SCI).
Overdrive makes it easy for thrill seekers like Harrison to satisfy their need for speed. Owned by Jim Mundle, who is himself a double amputee, the facility is equipped with four hand-controlled go-karts commissioned from Italy. The machines are as fast as any other go-kart but can be programmed to run more slowly for those who have sensory sensitivities.
“This is not something we (people with SCIs) usually get to do,” said Drew Wills, who participated in the event and is also a Board member for The Independence Center. “It’s really cool that they have adaptive carts that we can work. It was a total blast!”
The Overdrive event was just one of numerous adaptive recreation opportunities that The IC offered through the NCIL grant this year. Participants also enjoyed curling, camping, bowling, indoor skydiving, pickleball, and fishing.
For both Wills and Harrison, these experiences are vital for creating camaraderie, building confidence, and continuing to live full, independent lives.
“I was always into sports before my injury. I’ve been through some trauma in my life and the sports I’ve done is how I got over it,” said Harrison, who continues to play sports every chance she gets. “I just figured I’d count myself in before I counted myself out.”
Wills agrees on the lasting impact of opportunities like these. “I thrive both mentally and physically on getting out and doing things,” he said. “It keeps me going and keeps me motivated, so I try to make it a part of my life all the time.”
For more information on adaptive recreation opportunities, call The Independence Center at 719-471-8181.