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Alumni Adaptive Equipment Scholarship Makes Rugby Possible for Craig Grad

February 17, 2017

"The independence of all the players, getting to share experiences together, and working towards a team goal is what attracted me to rugby,” says Jake Hirning, Craig Grad, ’15.

After his spinal cord injury, Jake Hirning says Craig’s Therapeutic Recreation showed him new possibilities for the future.

“That was one of the biggest questions, ’“what can I do?’” says Jake. “TREC opened up this whole new aspect of being able to shoot archery, pushing a rugby chair and being on a team, playing pool and how to do the things you have fun doing. That’s super important because we all don’t want to sit in our house and rot away.”

While at Craig, Jake was introduced to wheelchair rugby. After rehab, he joined a team, but had to borrow a wheelchair to play because of the hefty price tag.

“Adaptive equipment can at times be prohibitively expensive. It's more expensive living with a disability any way, on top of a leisure activity. That often makes those leisure activities out of reach,” says Tom Carr, Director of Therapeutic Recreation.

Jake thought he might always have to borrow a chair that wasn’t made for him. He says, “It [the chair] was good at practices but I wasn’t able to do any practice on my own and it wasn’t fitted to me so it was kind of awkward all around.”

Last year, he learned about Craig’s Alumni Adaptive Equipment Scholarship and applied. When he was awarded the chair, he says it felt like he had gained newfound independence.

“It is amazing to have my own chair. I’d basically be stuck where I was at before and I don’t think I could progress as a player without having my own chair. I would have been depending on someone else, which is the opposite of the whole point of being more independent.”

“Craig’s Adaptive Equipment Scholarship is a way for us to partner with our graduates both to ensure they are getting the right piece of equipment and also supplement a financial short fall that prohibits them from acquiring equipment on their own,” says Tom Carr. “While we do ask that applicants contribute, we do not feel that a desire to lead an active healthy life should be limited by personal finances.”

“Getting this chair has been awesome because it is fitted to me, I can easily maneuver it, and I can push on my own anywhere I go," says Jake.

In recent years, Craig has partnered with the Kelly Brush Foundation, to expand our scholarship offerings and reach more Craig graduates like Jake. Kelly is a 2006 graduate of Craig, starting her own foundation inspired by her experience with the transformational power of being active after a spinal cord injury. To learn more about the Kelly Brush Foundation, visit their website.

Interested in Craig's Adaptive Equipment Scholarship? Visit our website to learn more about the application process for our adaptive equipment scholarship.