Skip to content

Katie Joly, Adaptive Sports Advocate, Named a “Healthcare Hero”

Gaylord Sports Association Program Manager among Eight Recognized   WALLINGFORD, CONNECTICUT, December 12, 2019 - Gaylord Sports Association Program Manager Katie Joly was among eight health care professionals honored at today’s Hartford Business Journal’s annual Healthcare Hero Awards luncheon at the Hartford Marriott.  

Joly, a Salem resident, received the “Healthcare Hero Award” in the Healthcare Staff category. She was nominated by her colleagues for improving the quality of life for hundreds of Connecticut and New England residents with disabilities by introducing them to the world of adaptive sports.

The Gaylord Hospital Sports Association is a donor-funded program of the nonprofit, rehabilitation-focused health system Gaylord Specialty Healthcare in Wallingford. The Sports Association provides adaptive sports and recreational opportunities at no or little charge to any adult with a permanent physical disability or visual impairment. The program also offers specialized programming for military veterans with PTSD or physical disabilities.

A dynamic leader, Katie Joly has carefully nurtured and cultivated the Gaylord Sports Association to become Connecticut’s largest - and one of the Nation’s most widely recognized - adaptive sports program. She encourages others to remember that the only limitations in life are the ones we set for ourselves. She believes that everyone, regardless of their ability level, should have the opportunity to enjoy sports and recreational activities.

Many individuals who come to the Sports Association have suffered a devastating injury or illness as an adult and suddenly find themselves trying to cope with their new limitations. Often, they long to return to the activities in which they used to participate or try new activities. Katie Joly will stop at nothing to make that happen by overseeing more than 200 events each year and ensures that all can participate, regardless of the severity of their disability.

Over the last six years, Joly has doubled the number of programs that the Sports Association offers to include adaptive waterskiing, golf, boccia, kayaking, alpine skiing, archery, paratriathlon, sled hockey, wheelchair rugby, seated yoga, fishing, rock climbing, curling, tennis, and biking. She also manages two competitive team sports, the Gaylord Wolfpack Sled Hockey and the Connecticut Jammers Wheelchair Rugby Team, who compete throughout the country. She has also led the Sports Association to become a bronze-level Paralympic Sport Club.

Joly expanded the very popular SAVES (Sports Association Veteran Event Series) program specifically geared towards veterans with PTSD or a physical or visual impairment. Veterans can interact with other veterans and participate in a number of programs specifically tailored for them including fishing tournaments, archery clinics and a veteran’s golf class.

“Katie passionately leads others to embrace new challenges,” said Sonja LaBarbera, President and CEO of Gaylord Specialty Healthcare. “She keenly understands the immense positive physical, social and emotional impact that the program has on its participants.”

Joly, an avid biker and skier herself, said, “I know what being involved in sports does for my own quality of life. To be able to share it with someone as they move forward from what may be the biggest challenge of their lives

is an amazing opportunity. To be able to see a person respond and say, ‘Wow, I thought I couldn’t do that again and here I am waterskiing’ or to hear a family say, ‘We’ve never seen our son smile so much’ is why I do what I do every day.”

About Gaylord Specialty Healthcare:
Gaylord Specialty Healthcare is a rehabilitation-focused, nonprofit health system located in Wallingford, Connecticut, that provides inpatient and outpatient care for people at every point in their journey from illness or injury to maximum recovery. Gaylord Specialty Healthcare includes three components. Gaylord Hospital offers medical rehabilitation for acute illnesses, accidents, or complex medical conditions. Gaylord Outpatient Services offers nearly 30 programs for a wide range of conditions. Gaylord Physical Therapy provides orthopedic rehabilitation for recovery from surgery or injury. Learn more at