When Jessica Vliegenthart was forced into a wheelchair after a vehicle accident in August 2004, she knew she still wanted to be involved in sports.
She was told she would have to go to Vancouver - there was no wheelchair sports program in place in Kamloops.
With this in mind, Vliegenthart and her husband, Jon, have created the Kamloops Adapted Sports Association, which is offering three sports. KASA will officially launch on Saturday, 6-8:30 p.m., at the Tournament Capital Centre, where folks can try their hands at wheelchair basketball, tennis or track, along with handcycling.
"At the time I was ready, I had recovered, there was nothing available in Kamloops," said Jessica Vliegenthart, who was Jessica Des Mazes before marrying Jon. "Nine years ago, there was literally nothing available. . . .
"One of the things with KASA, we're desperately trying to change this."
Vliegenthart was working as a firefighter up north in 2004 when she was thrown from the truck in which she was a passenger. She suffered multiple injuries, including a severed spinal cord, leaving her wheelchair-bound.
When she got through the surgeries and rehab, Vliegenthart decided to try wheelchair sports, but had to go to Vancouver for it. She started in track, and eventually was recruited over to the B.C. wheelchair basketball team.
She ended up on the Canadian women's wheelchair team, and competed at the London Paralympics in 2012 - it was her final competitive tournament, and the Canadians finished sixth.
In retiring, Jessica and Jon moved to Kamloops. They pledged to give back to the community, and KASA is the start.
Although KASA is starting with just three sports - basketball, tennis and handcycling - Jessica said it eventually hopes to move into other sports.
"Right now, we're offering quality over quantity," she said. "We'd love to expand into things like curling . . . it would be cool to have a track program. There's room to expand."
KASA has gotten a lot of support early on, with the Kamloops Tennis Centre, PacificSport, School District 73, the city of Kamloops and Adapted Sports Sun Peaks (ASSP) signing on as partners. As for Saturday's launch, B.C. Wheelchair Sports, B.C. Wheelchair Basketball and ASSP will be on hand to help out.
Kelly Hubbard, head coach of the KTC, will offer help with wheelchair tennis Saturday, and there also will be regional basketball and track coaches. There will be chairs for different sports, including a stationary handcycle.
"We just want to expose people to all adapted sports offered in B.C.," Vliegenthart said.
A big thing Vliegenthart wants to emphasize is that everyone is welcome in wheelchair sports, even those who are able-bodied.
Jon Vliegenthart, who is able-bodied, has been competing in adapted sports for 16 years, and played wheelchair basketball at Canada Games in 2003 and 2007. At those 2007 Games in Whitehorse, Jessica and Jon were teammates on Team B.C. - they were married in 2009.
Able-bodied people are encouraged to come out to support their friends, but can also come out on their own.
"It's something we totally recommend," Jessica said. "If you or someone you know has a disability, they don't have to come out on their own. We usually see one athlete with a disability, and three of their able-bodied friends."
KASA already has programs in place. Wheelchair tennis runs Tuesdays, and a wheelchair basketball program begins this week.
"Not being able to do something because it didn't exist, that's what we're trying to change," Vliegenthart said. "It was something, in my able-bodied life, that I didn't think about - I just assumed that Kamloops would have something like that and I just didn't hear about it.
"This is a super-sporty place, I couldn't believe it."