Mark Zac, a Tampa native who was diagnosed with autism, has participated in special Olympic sports over the past few years ranging from a local level to the world level in the World Special Olympic Games.
Allen Zac, Mark’s father, trained with him for six months before the World Special Olympic Games. They lifted weights and cycled almost 10 miles a day to prepare Mark for the event.
“That year he went to San Diego on his own, on the plane with the team, did training for five days, and then went to Athens and was with the team for three weeks on his own. We never thought he could survive without us, somehow he did and he did awesome,” Allen Zak said. “He won a gold and a silver in cycling.”
Mark took home a gold and a silver medal and proudly wears them to this day. Although he plays many sports, cycling has always been his favorite choice.
Out of the wide range of awards he’s won, his gold medal is his favorite.
Mark Zac has proven to many people in his community and around the world that even with a disability, you can live out your dreams.
The University of South Florida Riverfront Park offers a unique experience to its students and alumni by providing outdoor recreational activities from canoeing to even a ropes course.
With the advantage Florida brings to its residents, USF is able to offer its students and alumni a place to de-stress and relax after a hard day at work or from studying. The park has a wide range of activities available. The ropes course is a common favorite among it students and is an activity many people have never done before.
“I take them up on the ropes course which is about 55 feet high and they go through obstacles and stuff and they eventually zip line down,” ropes course facilitator Hunter Mitchell said.
The park is also on the banks of the Hillsborough River, allowing the park to offer canoeing and kayaking to its visitors. Many times, canoeing and kayaking is very expensive to go out and experience. At Riverfront Park students can rent canoes and kayaks from $5 to $10 and a full usage pass for $45.
“At USF Riverfront Boat House, we provide students the opportunity to rent out kayaks, single-person kayaks, two-person kayaks and canoes,” boat house facilitator Esteban Baute said.
The park also offers team-building activities that help USF students build leadership skills and make new friends.
“It gets people talking in case they don’t know each other and we just really establish trust and communication and really get groups closer together after they come out here,” Mitchell said.
With over 49,000 students at USF, making friends can be tough. USF Riverfront Park allows students to make new friends easier and bring different people together by offering these activities.
Sport Clubs at the University of South Florida offer students the chance to be able to live out their sports dreams of being college athletes, but not necessarily playing at the Division 1 level.
“This way students that are not at as high a level as NCAA athletes, still have an environment where they can go out and have fun and participate in their sport of choice.” Supervisor Sam Cathcart said.
USF Sports Clubs offers many different types of sports to USF students. They also offer unique sports including Water polo, Quidditch, and even Kendo. The wide range of sports available allows many different students to get involved with the sports clubs.
Also, many students who play sports during high school assume they are going to play sports in college and are often disappointed when they try out for the college team and do not make the cut. USF Sport Clubs allows these students to still be able to play the sports they loved back in high school. Club teams are often much more laid back than college teams allowing the players to enjoy their time more while they are playing.
Students are also able to create their own clubs if they wish to do so. “There’s Bullsync that you can go onto if you are interested in joining a sports club. That has all the information,” Jordan Mckenzie of USF Campus Recreation said. “As well as how to join a club. If you want to start a new club you are able to go on Bullsync and that’ll answer your questions as well.”
USF Sport Clubs give a unique future to something many students thought they would never be able to do again.
The Tampa Bay Lightning made a terrific run to the Stanley Cup semifinals last hockey season, which has recently prompted an increased interest in ice skating and hockey in the Tampa Bay area.
One of the few ice skating rinks in Tampa is located in Brandon, where the Lightning practice and visit quite often. The Brandon Ice Sports Forum houses a highly qualified staff and hosts many students who have attended the rink for years.
“My favorite thing about skating is how beautiful of a sport it is and how free it makes you feel,” current student Isabella Ramirez said. “It teaches you a lot of life lessons like to always get up when you fall down.”
Courtney O’Connor, a former student turned coach, is one of the main coaches at the rink. O’Connor works six days a week making sure her students receive the best training.
“I get to share the love that I have for ice skating with my students,” O’Connor said. “It’s really nice to be able to see them out there on the ice, skating, having a smile on their face and having that enjoyment.”
O’Connor has been coaching for four years and has plans to keep coaching for as long as she can. She has also been skating since she was three.
The Brandon Ice Sports Forum works closely with each student through private lessons and other skating classes. One of the most popular skating classes the ice rink offers is “Learn to Skate.” This class gives children and even adults the opportunity to learn skills that ice skaters and hockey players acquire through years of training.
Local business owner Dee Laskowski is using technology to her advantage. She advertises her business products through social media sites including Facebook, Instagram and Etsy.
Laskowski and her husband own a small craft business called We Sell Sea Shells and More. She crotchets mermaid dolls in the comfort of her own home.
“I crochet the head and the body and I do it in custom colors so people can order whatever colors they would like,” Laskowski said.
Each mermaid doll costs about $45 depending on how customized the purchaser wants it to be. A lot of hard work goes into making the dolls and it takes an average of three days to make one.
“It takes about two hours to cut the yarn and put it on the doll’s head,” crafter Liana Laskowski said.
Laskowski advertises her business on social media sites including Facebook and Instagram. Recently she created a business account on Etsy, a popular crafting website.
“It seems like a lot of small businesses, craft businesses and baking businesses are using social media sites in this manner and getting orders that way,” Laskowski said, “there’s generally a website associated with the account where they can click on the link and go to that account to make purchases.”
Social media has become a prevalent part of today’s society. With Apple’s recent release of the iPhone 7, technology continues to change our everyday lives.