|2017 Sports Jamboree
North Bend State Park, Cairo, West Virginia
Should you have any questions, concerns, or would like to have further information about the Jamboree or to receive an application(s) for the Jamboree, please feel free to contact any of the “Calling Committee Members” listed below:
Carolyn Hager – Calling Committee Member
Shirley Sergent – Calling Committee Member
Sandra Schnopp – Calling Committee Member
Diana Buzzard – Calling Committee Member
A Special Place, In West Virginia Called “North Bend”
By Chuck Meadows
There is a special place in West Virginia, North Bend State Park, where the Telephone Pioneers of America have created an International Sports Jamboree for the Disabled. The Jamboree began in 1978, with the commitment to create recreation and “Olympic style” competition for persons with physical challenges and has continued for the past 37 years. Since the beginning, more than 1000, contestants from across the United States and Canada have participated; and many other chapters of Telephone Pioneers have formed their own jamborees.
I found out about this through photos posted on the company bulletin board in 1980. The pictures of the competition, of the contestants were amazing, yet the one that caught my attention was one, of the lunch line. There stood three pioneers getting ready to serve lunch in white aprons and boots, with mud rising above their ankles (it rained that year), yet the expression on their faces was that of accomplishment and gratification in what they were doing. The next year I worked at the Jamboree and found out why. My family and I have worked there since.
At the Jamboree you will meet youth and young adults 8 through age 40, that have been given such difficult and seemingly impossible roads to travel, that at first all you can feel is the breaking of your heart that they should have to travel such a hard path through life. Yet, at the Jamboree you will also witness the strength of their spirit and their determination to overcome those difficulties, stating to everyone without doubt, not to ever underestimate their abilities or their willingness to overcome the obstacles before them.
You will see blind contestants running full speed without fear; some for the first time, in the 40-yard competition traveling down steel guide wires in a special harness. They run full speed without fear for the pioneers have cleared the path and are waiting at the finish line to catch them. We use only the finest, largest, and softest pioneers for this competition. I have seen the catchers taken to the ground by the speeding contestants, only to rise with excitement and congratulations at that fast run and reset themselves for the next catch.
You will see all manner of competitive games, using equipment some modified for wheelchairs, others with beepers for the visually impaired. Basketball rims, softballs, and bicycles, all sounding with their location beepers fill the air constantly between rounds of applause for the contestants.
You may meet a contestant, as I did one year, who must operate his wheel chair with relays placed on a frame around his head, due to the loss of strength and control in his arms and hands. He rolls out on to the basketball court so full of excitement that he bounces in his chair as he moves. His father asked if he could be with him during the basket ball game; to help him with the ball since he wasn’t sure if his son knew what to do, or if he could do it. I said it would be all right, “…as long as you let him do as much as he could by himself.” During the game one of his opponents doubted him for a moment and tried to pass too close. He found the strength and knew what he was to do. To everyone’s surprise, especially the girl that got too close, a hand came forward and stole the ball. He squealed and bounced in his chair with excitement and pride, in what he had just accomplished. The spectators roared with applause and cheers, not for a NBA star slam-dunk, but for a young man stating, “do not underestimate me, ever”. His father looked at me and with tears starting to flow down both our faces, he said, “I think my son can handle this, I’ll watch from the side lines.” It took a while to regain control of the game, but no one cared, he had surprised us all and the moment was not to be rushed, but celebrated. His team went on to win in double elimination and later that night, at the award ceremonies, received an excited standing ovation from the audience.
In the evening the workers, spectators and contestants gather, at the amphitheater for the award ceremony, where the contestants receive Olympic style medals, with colored stars on the ribbon indicating their placement in the events. This is where the Pioneers also receive their reward. With each contestant’s smile and excitement, as the announcer states their placement in the games and the medal is placed around their neck, a wave of accomplishment flows from the stage through the audience that cannot be justified by words.
Just when you think it couldn’t get better, it does. After the award ceremony, the contestants put on a talent show. All manner of singing, dancing, comedy, instrumentals, and poem reading fill the rest of the evening, an evening to everyone’s disappointment that ends all too soon.
The weekend comes to an end. Pioneers, contestants, and their families travel back home, each changed forever by their coming together on a July weekend, at a special place in West Virginia called, North Bend.