Quality of Life Grantee Spotlight: Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch

For Michael Delancey, adaptive sports are much more than an activity; they are an opportunity to create a community.

Man in wheelchair playing basketball

“Sports create a bond, a connection to the people who may have similar interests and shared challenges,” says Delancey, who sustained a T5 complete spinal cord injury in a 2006 sniper attack during military combat in Iraq. “I see that people involved in sports have a better quality of life.”

Ten years after his injury, Delancey was approached by the city of Pinellas Park to help create a 10-acre community park designed for wheelchair users. The site became home to Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch (WWAR), a nonprofit founded by Delancey and his father to inspire other disabled veterans to be more active. 

Constructed to strengthen the mind and body, the park offers wide trails for hand cycling, walking and running and a pond for fishing. There are also specially designed ADA workout stations and a large multipurpose sports court for wheelchair sports and events. In 2019, WWAR began offering accessible sports, including a wheelchair softball team that played in the World Series.

“My dad coached youth sports from before I was born, so building an adaptive sports program was a natural fit for my family,” says Delancey, whose stepmother also works for the organization. “Through sports, we inspire each other to be more active.”

In 2021, WWAR received a $25,000 Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life grant to expand its adaptive sports offerings. The grant enabled the purchase of two sport wheelchairs and one Force 3 handcycle. It also provided funding for event transportation and a wheelchair sports tournament in Tampa Bay.

“Our goal is to increase participation in adaptive sports at all levels,” says Delancey. “We were able to form a competitive rugby and basketball team. The funding provided for uniforms, accommodations, transportation and food, enabling national level participation regardless of financial ability.”

The rugby team played in six tournaments nationwide and ranked No. 1 in the country. WWAR also hosted two major wheelchair rugby tournaments, bringing in 76 players from across the U.S.

“The importance and power of collaboration in the adaptive sports world is key to our success in growing and implementing our programs,” says Delancey. “We have learned so much from other teams and professional organizations, and our players have benefited from that knowledge.”

WWAR also hosted a variety of programs in various venues around the Tampa area to build awareness and participation in adaptive sports. Over 60 families were directly served by the increased outreach.

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Monthly clinics at WWAR offer people of all abilities the opportunity to try out equipment, learn new skills and train for events. Delancey also added an 11-mile handcycle race, an adaptive fishing event, wheelchair football and remote-controlled vehicle activities to WWAR’s offerings.

“With the grant funding, we achieved all our goals and increased participation in our adaptive sports programs by over 150%,” says Delancey. “It enabled us to get people out and into the community.”

Grant funding was also used for travel costs and maintenance of WWAR’s donated adaptive bus, which includes an accessible lift and room for eight wheelchairs and an additional 20 passengers. In addition to tournament travel, the bus hosts tailgate parties at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers games and travels to Tampa Bay Lightning hockey games and the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg IndyCar race.

“Another great outcome is that our volunteer numbers have swelled to over 60 active volunteers with more inquiring every day,” says Delancey. “We have had healthcare practitioners and students wanting to learn about our players’ struggles and ways they have overcome them. They then take that into the community to help their patients. This is the huge indirect impact our programs offer thanks to the Reeve Foundation funding."

To learn more about the Quality of Life Grants, click here

About the Author - Reeve Staff

This blog was written by the Reeve Foundation for educational purposes. For more information please reach out to information@christopherreeve.org

Reeve Staff

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.