By Paula Ebben

WALTHAM (CBS) – It’s a summer of sports along the Charles River for a special group of people who all have disabilities. The program shows what they can do, not what they can’t.

“This is a high challenge water and land sports program for people of all abilities. We call all of our participants athletes,” says Nate Berry, the program director for AccessSportAmerica.

waltham Athletes Rise To The Challenge At Waltham Summer Sports Program

Mark Young at AccessSportsAmerica program in Waltham (WBZ-TV)

Whether it’s windsurfing, riding a recumbent bike or paddling, these athletes are getting it done no matter their issues. “Autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, strokes, traumatic brain injuries,” Berry says.

It’s a special program run by AccessSportAmerica using a Dept. of Conservation and Recreation dock along the Charles in Waltham. “Seven years ago I was hit by a car,” says Joe Reidy. That left him with a brain injury. Still, he’s a windsurfer. “It’s just so cool,” he says.

wind Athletes Rise To The Challenge At Waltham Summer Sports Program

Joe Reidy windsurfs at AccessSportsAmerica program in Waltham (WBZ-TV)

Mark and Fan are both dealing with the aftermath of strokes, but they’re paddling like champs. Shawn Bridges had a stroke as well, but loves to bike. “It allows me to break the chain of sitting in a chair. I’m out, I’m walking, I’m talking, I’m riding the bike. I’m doing everything you’re supposed to do rather than sitting somewhere inside the house,” he says.

It’s a lot of fun but it’s also therapy with participants gaining strength, stamina and confidence. “Doing things here is really the only way I can get my heart rate up to really exercise because I can’t walk fast enough to do that,” explains Mark Young.

“A lot of this population has been told, no you can’t do this, you can’t do that and we’re trying to show them that they can. We can very easily make them successful right away and they see themselves in a different light,” says Berry.

Access Sport America also has programs for children, and works with more than 2000 people each year.

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