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Column: BlazeSports, an Atlanta nonprofit, ready for 2012 Paralympics

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Friday, August 17, 2012

Atlanta’s 1996 Paralympic Games lives on through BlazeSports America — a national nonprofit organization that provides training and best practices to athletes with physical disabilities.

BlazeSports America is described as the “legacy organization” of the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta — the first Paralympics to be held on American soil in the same host city as the Olympic Games.

“BlazeSports is a national network that is about making sure that people with physical disabilities have the same opportunities to compete as non-disabled athletes,” said Dan Humphreys, director of BlazeTEC (Training, Education and Certification). “We provide hands-on programming mostly for youth and veterans.”

The Atlanta-based organization, which works closely with the U.S. Paralympics (part of the U.S. Olympic Committee) now is preparing for the opening of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, which will be held from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9 in mostly the same venues as the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

A total of nine Paralympic athletes from Georgia will be competing in London.

They are: McKenzie Coan from Clarkesville (swimming); Amanda Dennis of Peachtree City (goalball); Lee Ford of Perry (archery); Lantz Lamback of Augusta {swimming); Curtis Lovejoy of Atlanta (swimming); and David Prince of Marietta, Krige Schabort of Cedartown, Jarryd Wallace of Athens and Scott Winkler of Augusta (all track and field).

BlazeSports will hold a 2012 Paralympic Kickoff Party on Aug. 29 to celebrate the opening of the 14th Paralympic Summer Games and to honor the athletes of Team USA. The event will be held in the Solarium in the historic Oakhurst community.

The kickoff will be raising money to create more opportunities for kids and veterans with disabilities. It also will honor the Shepherd Center, which was instrumental in putting on the Paralympic Games in Atlanta and in the creation of BlazeSports and a network of Paralympic clubs across the country.

Unlike the situation in 1996, now cities bidding for the Olympic Games also have to include plans to host the Paralympic Games.

More money for digital literacy

In a series of four events in metro Atlanta on Aug. 16, Comcast said it is investing another $160,000 in its digital literacy program started in 2011 as part of the cable giant’s acquisition of NBC Universal. At the time, Comcast committed to offering Internet access programs to low-income families across the country.

After one year, Atlanta has experienced the second-highest enrollment with 5,500 students now connected through Comcast’s Internet Essentials program. Atlanta’s enrollment is the second-highest in the country — after Chicago — since the program launched last August.

In 2011, Comcast invested $162,000 for digital literacy programs in metro Atlanta, according to Andy Macke, vice president of government and community affairs for Comcast in the Atlanta region. In addition to the $160,000 announced this month, Macke said the company likely will spend another $20,000 in the program in 2012.

“More than $5 million in Comcast Foundation grants supported digital literacy efforts in 2011, including support of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Club Tech,” Macke said of Comcast’s involvement in about 50 sites around the country serving about 80,000 low-income families.

In metro Atlanta, the program is available to 111,000 low-income families that receive a free or reduced lunch in 28 metro Atlanta school districts.

GeorgiaForward forum

GeorgiaForward — a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that includes leaders from business, academia, government and philanthropic communities, will host its third annual forum from Sept. 12-13 at the Classic Center in Athens.

The theme this year will be: “Re-visioning Statewide Prosperity,” and it will feature speakers who will delve into issues central to Georgia’s long-term growth as well as its stature in the global economy.

“We want to invite people to become part of the conversation and ultimately help mold Georgia’s bright future,” said Amir Farokhi, executive director of GeorgiaForward. “The goal of the forum is not to only discuss and identify the state’s drivers of prosperity, but also to gain commitments from organizations and leaders to act on those solutions.

The two-day conference will host several keynote speakers including Ted Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations; Roland Stephen of SRI International and author of “After Manufacturing,” and Col. Mark Mykleby, New American Foundation Fellow and co-author of “National Strategic Narrative.”

Hands On Atlanta board

Hands On Atlanta, a local volunteer and civic engagement organization, now has new volunteer leadership.

Nick Costides, vice president of information services for United Parcel Service, is the organization’s new chair after serving as vice chair. He succeeds Mark Haidet, a partner at Actuate Partners, who will remain on the board serving on the finance and fundraising committees.

Chloe Barzay, a partner at Accenture, will serve as the vice board chair. Becky Schmitt, a senior vice president and chief financial officer for LexisNexis Risk Solutions, will serve as treasurer; and Tiffany Friesen, director of the Southeast region for Be the Match Foundation, will serve as secretary.

Hands On Atlanta also added two new members to its board: David Richardson, business wireless technical support manager for Sprint; and Jennifer Hightower, senior vice president of law and policy for Cox Communications.

“The level of knowledge and commitment from our board members is exceptional and is a huge part of our success,” said Gina Simpson, president and CEO of Hands On Atlanta.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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