California Organization Accesses Their Spirit of Ability

On Friday, Aug. 22, a Sacramento, CA organization was awarded the fifth Ralph W. Braun Spirit of Ability Award. While the Golden State has its name derived from the golden light that basks the shorelines, there are other sources of sunshine in the lives of the residents.

Access Leisure is an organization that provides all community members with disabilities or serious injuries, ill and wounded veterans, and active duty members of the military with over 500 different sports and recreational experiences annually. All-year-round, they are out in the city putting on camping trips, baseball tournaments, power soccer, and anything else you can imagine for people ages 1 to 100.

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They operate under the City of Sacramento’s Department of Parks and Recreation. This gives the group access to resources that allow them to reach such large numbers of people. Some events have over 200 attendees, which when your team is providing over 500 experiences a year, is pretty massive. The team is headed up by Annie Desalernos, and she accepted the award on behalf of the Access Leisure team. Access Leisure has full-time staff members, but is largely manned by a dedicated group of volunteers.

“The ability to positively impact not just the individual that attends their events, but that person’s family, friends, and the community at large, is what inspires each member of the Access Leisure staff to ‘leave it all on the playing field’ when they suit up for work,” said Desalernos.

We caught up with Annie at the Sonoma Day at the Races event. Sam Schmidt, a quadriplegic and IndyCar team owner (former driver), was present to give Access Leisure the award. Food, a tour of the track, and other race-themed goodies awaited Day at the Races attendees and Access Leisure after the ceremony.

In addition to the award, a $1,000 donation will be made to the disability-related cause of Access Leisure’s choice. The organization chosen is Gifts to Share, a nonprofit group that supports the City of Sacramento’s park, recreation, cultural, educational and neighborhood improvement programs and facilities.

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Founded in 1966, Access Leisure has a successful career of 48 years of service to the city.

The Spirit of Ability award was created to honor individuals like and organizations like Access Leisure who make a notable difference in the lives of people with physical disabilities, often despite overwhelming odds. The award is named in honor of the late Ralph Braun, who had muscular dystrophy but did not let that prevent him from inventing the first motorized scooter, wheelchair lift, and founding BraunAbility, today a worldwide leader of mobility equipment.

Thank you, Access Leisure, for making an impact in the Golden State!