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Team FUSE is one awareness program of Athletes Joined Against Spondylitis (AJAS), a non-profit entity based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Specifically, it is a competition paintball team captained by AJAS founder Brian Warner.
A little about Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) — AS is a systemic autoimmune disease, a type of arthritis that affects the joints between the vertebrae of the spine, especially those found in the lower back. AS causes inflammation in the areas where tendons or ligaments attach to bone, which then makes the vertebrae merge — or fuse — together. Gradually, the disease moves up, affecting joints higher and higher on the spine. Besides the joints, the bowels, lungs, heart and eyes can also be affected. Two-thirds of all patients, such as the entertainer Ed Sullivan, end up with a curved, forward-stooping posture.
Team FUSE has been charged with raising awareness of AS, specifically though paintball. Specifically, we strive to increase awareness of ankylosing spondylitis by
- Promoting AS awareness through participation, banners, uniforms, appearances and pamphlets at sporting events attended by audiences of more than 100,000 people yearly;
Becoming a model for athletes with a disability by competing in national events each year;
Chronicling the team’s quest for the national title on paintball Web sites;
Raising awareness, support and contributions for AS research and treatment through multiple channels of information: Web, print, television, radio;
Giving the disabled and underprivileged a role in our sport and creating opportunities for them to enjoy the game at whatever levels their abilities will allow.
AS patients are predominantly young men; extreme athletes are predominantly young men.
Paintball is the third largest “extreme” sport in terms of revenue, behind only skateboarding and in-line skating, and is the only sport of its kind that promotes a teamwork environment, which is why it is appealing as the launch point for AJAS.
AJAS, in conjunction with local facilities, hopes to provide a safe and substance-free “hangout” for youth to participate in after-school and weekend activities and participate in the sport of paintball.
AJAS has created a positive online experience for youth to interact with AJAS members on both the national and regional teams, where they can discuss topics of interest relating to both the sport and to living with AS. This site will also allow for discussion with FUSE team members.
AJAS hopes to be able to hold FUSE Days events each year during the spring and summer months, targeting youth ages 10–17. At the beginning of each FUSE Day, participants will attend a meeting hosted by a regional FUSE officer. Once the AJAS message has been presented, participants will then be free to play paintball under the guidance of Team FUSE. At the end of the day, snack and drinks will be provided along with a closing message.
“Play with a Pro” Days will run in place of FUSE Days during the fall and winter months. The format will be similar to FUSE Days, but without the AJAS officer and will instead feature a professional paintball player who will discuss his/her life in the sport. Following discussion, participants will be able to play paintball with the professional player.
AJAS will seek to expand the FUSE Days scope to establish a national FUSE Day. This will be achieved by replicating the local FUSE Days concept at other facilities around the nation.
Want to learn more?
Visit Team FUSE at www.fusepb.org.