Nancy Bazanchuk: 37
Program Director of Disability Resources,
Center for Human Development
Nancy Bazanchuk says that when individuals with disabilities are competing in sports, they feel like athletes, not individuals who happened to be disabled.
And she should know.
Born with a congenital condition that required amputation of both her legs above the knee, Bazanchuk didn’t let that stop her from becoming a varsity swimmer while attending Bridgewater State University. And she’s making it her life’s work to help others enjoy the experience of competing in the pool, on the ice, or in the gym.
For the past 13 years, Bazanchuk, the highest scorer among this year’s field of 40 Under Forty candidates, has been program director of Disability Resources for the Center for Human Development. Now, as then, this is a department of one full-time employee, but since Bazunchuk — described as not simply the face of the program but its heart and soul — started, Disability Resources has seen exponential growth, from serving 69 individuals to more than 800. They range in age from 3 to 97.
Those numbers speak to her commitment to empower people with physical disabilities through participation in sports ranging from wheelchair soccer to golf; from biking to bowling; from dance to track and field. The most recent addition to that list is sled hockey, with a team — the Western Mass Knights — that recently competed in a tournament in Westfield.
Bazanchuk, who provides case management for 125 people with disabilities every year, played a key role in the creation of that squad, which filled a void after several area young people aged out of a Shriners sled-hockey unit and were looking for a team — and a way to keep competing. And she’s also the goalie.
“How many people get to play sports as part of their job?” she queried when BusinessWest asked about the rewards she takes from her work. She then elaborated, noting that she takes great pride in helping people build self-esteem and feel like they’re part of the community.
While also feeling like athletes.