The roots of Mesa Association of Sports for the Disabled (MASD) began in 1988 when an adaptive physical education teacher and a city recreation specialist saw the need to create an avenue for people with disabilities to be able to practice and compete in sports. This created a unique cooperative effort between Mesa Public Schools and the City of Mesa Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities to provide a comprehensive program of sports and recreation for individuals with disabilities of all ages. The non-profit organization of MASD was founded on January 17, 1989. This partnership continues to foster the growth of available programs and opportunities for individuals with disabilities of all ages.
In 1990, the first Desert Challenge Games was held and one year later the event became a regional qualifier including 125 athletes from 7 states and Canada. At the time, MASD had about 240 athletes in total. In 1991, the first annual fall fundraiser, now entitled The Ability Ball, was created.
Between 1992 and 2003, the organization continued to grow in events, programs, and athletes. Desert Challenge Games grew in national prestige, MASD hosted an annual power soccer culminating tournament for all national teams, our wheelchair basketball teams flourished, and we hosted the annual East Valley State Basketball Tournament, a 3 day event utilizing every high school and junior high school gymnasium in Mesa. The You Look Marvelous Fashion Show began in coordination with Chandler Parks and Recreation. Track, field, archery, bowling, swim, bocce, basketball, cycling, cheerleading, gymnastics, and soccer were available.
In 2003, the first paid Executive Director was hired to help MASD continue to grow. Also, the Broadway Recreation Center (BRC) became the MASD office and home court. In 2004, we hosted the Junior National Disability Championships for the second time. In 2006, MASD was the Recipient of the 1st Pat Tillman Community Service Award for Outstanding Community Sports Organization.
In 2007, MASD established a DBA trade name of Arizona Disabled Sports (AzDS) to better represent the scope of service that the organization was providing to the community. The Team Mesa programs continued to recognize MASD as the partner organization to the City of Mesa and the programs for people with physical disabilities began to be recognized as Arizona Disabled Sports. While the legal name continues to be Mesa Association of Sports for the Disabled, Arizona Disabled Sports has become our most recognized identity.
AzDS has hosted Paralympic Team Trials for track and field, a 3rd national Junior Disability Championship, and many national and conference championships. The Desert Challenge Games became an International Paralympic Committee Grand Prix event in 2013, one of only 6 in the world and the only such event in North America. We continue to host his prestigious event with over 350 athletes from the US and 17 other countries competing in 2017.
Today, approximately 1000 local athletes participate in seasonal training and competitive events. Many participate in national and international competitions. Additionally, over 500 athletes from across the nation and globe compete in various AzDS sponsored events. Arizona Disabled Sports is well known across the country as a top provider of sports and activities for people with disabilities of all ages. AzDS is recognized by the International Paralympic Committee as a Gold Level Paralympic Sport Club.
Arizona Disabled Sports is incorporated as a non-profit organization through the Arizona Corporation Commission, recognized as a 501c3 corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. The Association is a chapter of Adaptive Sports USA, and Disabled Sports USA. Team Mesa athletes participate in competitions hosted by Special Olympics Arizona (SOAZ) but we are a separate non-profit organization that provides programs to athletes with intellectual disabilities in Mesa.