If variety is the spice of life, adaptive recreation program participant Tomas Sliva brings the heat and not just because he enjoys eating hot sauces that can only be purchased after signing a waiver. Sliva keeps life flavorful by continuously finding new ways to satisfy his craving for adventure. And despite his long list of exciting interests, recreation programs at Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation (CCPR) remain a favorite.
Growing up in the Czech Republic and Sweden, Sliva was fortunate to experience many different cultures throughout his childhood.
Exposure to other worldviews resulted in a lifelong sense of wonder for Sliva. Not only did his upbringing change the way he viewed the world, but his Down Syndrome diagnosis also changed the way he experienced it.
“Tomas’ friends at school were from Japan, China, Denmark, and many other places around the world,” explains his mother Veronika Slivova. “The children would take turns sharing their cultural dishes like sushi which is still his favorite. I believe this helped him become open to trying new things from an early age.
“Down Syndrome is one disability,” shares Slivova. “Obesity is almost like another. We knew as a family prioritizing health, whether that was nutrition, physical activity, mindfulness practices, etc., would be even more important given the higher rates of obesity and sedentary lifestyle in individuals with Down Syndrome.”
Given the tools and support Sliva received from his family throughout his life, he went on to qualify for Team Indiana’s downhill skiing Special Olympics team, compete in marathons, master kickbiking, and more. That’s why it’s no surprise he was immediately drawn to the FlowRider® on his first visit to The Waterpark in 2017.
FlowRider® is CCPR’s surf simulator with waves that rush up to 30 miles per hour. Sliva participates in Open Flow adaptive recreation programs each summer.
“Tomas is well-known within CCPR for his FlowRider® skills,” shares inclusion program supervisor Kelvin Solares. “People see Tomas shredding waves and think if he can do it, they could easily do it, too. Of course, that isn’t the case. Tomas has great balance and courage.”
BEYOND THE WATER
CCPR offers dozens of adaptive programs each season. Adaptive programs are designed for individuals with disabilities. While the FlowRider® is his favorite, Sliva participates in two other adaptive programs year-round: Barrier-Free Theatre and Adaptive 5K.
“Tomas’ dream is to become a stand-up comedian,” Slivova says. “When we heard other families at Open Flow discuss Barrier-Free Theatre, we thought that would be a great way for him to work on stage presence.”
Barrier-Free Theatre is a form of drama therapy in which participants with and without disabilities work together to write and act in their own production. Barrier-Free Theatre empowers participants, increases self-confidence and improves self-awareness. It also creates a positive, inclusive and creative environment.
“I was nervous to start, so mom joined me at the first session,” shares Sliva. “I immediately loved it and didn’t need her to stay anymore. It’s really fun. I like acting.”
Sliva’s other spring activity is the Adaptive 5K race. He won first place in 2022 and looks to claim that title again in 2023.
New and exciting experiences make life more interesting. Adaptive recreation programs at CCPR have made life more flavorful for Sliva. Despite varying interests, activity levels, abilities, and age, there is a recreation program for everyone at CCPR, even the most adventurous at heart.