VCU Center for Sport Leadership to Lead Sports Diplomacy Mission to Turkmenistan

Delegation of Virginia sport leaders to focus on adaptive sports
logo for ENVSET Turkmenistan

VCU Center for Sport Leadership (CSL) will lead a delegation of Virginia sport professionals and adaptive sport experts to Turkmenistan for a program aimed at ways sport can create social change.

The program, called ENVEST (Empowering New Voices through Education and Sport Training) is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs through their Sports Diplomacy Division.  The Richmond-based delegation will be traveling to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan from October 5-17 where they will collaborate with adaptive sport athletes, coaches and representative from the Ministry of Sports and Youth Policy.

“We are grateful to be working with U.S. Department of State again to provide impactful sport for development programming. This trip to Turkmenistan will culminate our most ambitious cultural exchange initiative to date, one that has spanned more than three years and included seven South Central Asia countries,” said Carrie LeCrom, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Sport Leadership.

The delegation headed to Turkmenistan is comprised of a diverse group of athletes, coaches and advocates, led by Sportable, an award-winning adaptive sport organization based in Richmond and a longtime partner of the CSL. Organizations also represented by the delegation include: Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Mission Gait, Soar 365, Virginia Capital Trail Foundation, Wintergreen Adaptive Sports, and YMCA of Greater Richmond.

The United States Embassy in Turkmenistan has played a vital role in planning this visit as well as in-country partners: Turkmenistan Ministry of Sports and Youth Policy, Turkmenistan Paralympics Committee, Special Olympics, and the Sports Clubs for the Disabled

“By incorporating strategic partners in a productive way, ENVEST has the potential to not only be impactful to those involved, but to have a ripple effect, reaching so many others as well,” said LeCrom.

The Virginia based delegation will reunite with adaptive sport athletes and coaches from Turkmenistan who visited Richmond in October 2018. While in the United States, they learned best practices from adaptive sport organizations and began developing action plans to implement in their country. The second phase of this cultural exchange will center on the progress of those plans as well as introducing new programming ideas that highlight recreational and competitive opportunities for athletes with disabilities.

While the majority of programming will take place in the capital of Ashgabat, small groups of delegates will be visiting other cities in Turkmenistan in an effort to increase the reach and impact of this initiative.  The trip will culminate with a full-day seminar, “Unlocking Potential through Adaptive Sports.” In conjunction with in-country partners, the U.S. based delegation will coordinate a series of panel discussions, hands-on workshops, and breakout sessions focused around best practices in adaptive sport.

In an effort to jump start adaptive sport programming in Turkmenistan, ENVEST will be donating more than $10,000 in equipment and gear to various organizations that work with athletes with physical disabilities or visual impairments.

ENVEST operates under the leadership of CSL Executive Director Carrie LeCrom, who has been awarded three previous grants from the U.S. Department of State and has partnered with them to lead sport-for-development missions in Ethiopia, China and South Africa. The visit to Turkmenistan is the final phase of a grant that impacted youth athletes and coaches in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, India, Sri Lanka and The Maldives.

The entire 20-person delegation includes:

Abby Bergakker - VCU Center for Sport Leadership
Greg Burton  – VCU Center for Sport Leadership
Greg Greenhalgh – VCU Center for Sport Leadership
Carrie LeCrom – VCU Center for Sport Leadership

Elijah Bonderson – Sportable
Wendy Bonderson – Sportable
Taylor Jones -  Sportable
Forrest Lodge  – Sportable
Hunter Leemon – Sportable
Hannah Smith – Sportable
Brian Smith – Sportable
Mark Willis – Sportable
Zach Zomermaand – Sportable

Cat Anthony – Virginia Capital Trail Foundation
Caitlyn Berry – Soar 365
Dawna Callahan – All In Consulting
Katie Ghoulson – YMCA of Greater Richmond
Lucille O’Neil – Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU
Dave Shreve – Wintergreen Adaptive Sports
Robin Yoder – Mission Gait

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