November 17, 2022

By Amanda Scurlock

Sports Editor


With the Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles being six years away, the City Department of Recreation and Parks is providing inclusive athletic opportunities for young Angelenos with the PlayLA program.

The PlayLA Youth and Adaptive Youth Sports Program is an initiative that offers sports programming for youth from 5-17 years old of all abilities. The LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games Organizing Committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) helped create the initiative.

PlayLA recently partnered with Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) to host a para surfing clinic at Venice Beach.

“Back in 2018, the mayor, the council, and the International Olympic Committee negotiated funding for programming leading up to the Olympics in the tune of 160 million,” said Recreation and Parks General Manager Jimmy Kim.


“This program is just going to grow and more youth will have access to this type of program.”

Arelle Middleton, 14, competes in wheelchair basketball and recently joined the varsity track and field team at Los Osos High School. She was invited to the clinic by her teammate.

“I like that it’s something I usually never do, it’s something very new to me,” Middleton said. "I think it’s good because it shows kids more opportunities and new things they are able to do.”

The CAF implemented the para surfing program for the participants, the organization supports over 100 different sports, according to CAF programs manager and two-time Paralympic gold medalist Rudy Garcia-Tolson.


“There’s never been a better time to be an athlete who has a physical challenge because there’s a level of support that is out there, the number of clinics that we’re putting on,” Garcia-Tolson said.

“It’s just great to continue to build that movement.”

Prior to the clinic, a grant was presented to 13-year-old Andrea Cifuentes who was born with Spina Bifida.

She noted how being in the ocean makes her feel calm.

“I like how peaceful it makes me and I like to ride the waves,” Cifuentes noted. “When I went to the last program, I saw two dolphins and I found that really amazing.”

CAF Athlete and Team USA World Para Surf champion Liv Stone also spoke to the participants about her experiences training and competing.

Over the summer, PlayLA offered wheelchair tennis and para-equestrian along with para surfing. During the fall, their programming includes blind soccer, para-equestrian, and adaptive skateboarding.”

Category: Sports