Spotlight on OPAF & The First Clinics

Allison and Laura on their first dive

Offering Adaptive Recreation for “Regular Joes and Janes”

An Interview With Robin Burton, Executive Director

Robin Burton

Robin Burton

AmputeeNews: What is OPAF & The First Clinics, and what does the organization do?

Robin Burton: OPAF & The First Clinics serve as the philanthropic arm of the orthotic and prosthetic industry in the United States. Our mission is to provide adaptive recreational sports, programs and clinics for those with physical challenges. We do this through First Clinics. ‘First’ indicates that this may be the ‘first’ time that a participant is trying an activity or the ‘first’ time that they are attempting any recreation post surgery, illness or injury. All First Clinics serve as an introduction to a sport or activity to open new doors, both for the activity and for the social aspects that each provide.

AN: How much does it cost to participate in The First Clinics?

RB: All First Clinics are offered at no cost to participants.

AN: How can people get more information on OPAF & The First Clinics?

RB: Please visit the OPAF Web site at A complete list of upcoming First Clinics and events is on the OPAF calendar.

Karen Hughes on climbing wall

Karen Hughes on climbing wall

AN: Why did you start OPAF & The First Clinics?

RB: The organization was originally founded to support the 1996 Paralympic Games when they were held in Atlanta, Georgia. After the Games, the decision was made to continue the movement for adaptive recreation but to focus on the ‘regular Joe’ participant, not the elite athlete, which is the focus of the Paralympic Games. We wanted to offer adaptive recreation and promote socialization of the population. In 2004, First Swing Learn to Golf was the sole First event that OPAF offered. In 2011, there are now eight different First Clinics being hosted across the country, including tennis, swimming, scuba, dance, kayaking, rock climbing and therapeutic horsemanship.

AN: What is your vision for the organization’s future?

RB: To provide a healthy outlet for physically challenged individuals to achieve their best through adaptive recreation.

AN: How can others help the organization fulfill its mission?

RB: As a public charity, we are dependent upon donations, large and small, as well as grant funding and sponsorships. All First Clinics that are held across the country are underwritten through sponsorships. We are constantly looking to expand our reach with First Clinics and offer new opportunities to the physically challenged population. Your gift or donation can make a difference.

First Clinics Chicago

First Clinics Chicago

AN: Is there anything else you’d like to tell amputees about OPAF & The First Clinics?

RB: Do you have an idea for a First Clinic? Please get in touch and let us know! Passion for adaptive recreation and wanting to affect lives is how many of our First Clinics have come to be. First Climb was the vision of Ronnie Dickson, an amputee rock climber.  McKeever’s First Ride, which is therapeutic horsemanship, was the dream of Deenie McKeever, as a way to give back to the amputee community and honor her father, Dan McKeever, a true pioneer in O&P. Chris Casteel saw the potential for amputees and kayaking, and First Paddle was born. The sky is the limit for what we can achieve!

Photos courtesy of OPAF & The First Clinics

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