New York, N.Y., April 24, 2023 - Today, the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), a leading provider of disability insurance, is announcing a multi-year grant to the University of Michigan Adaptive Sports and Fitness (ASF) program for the creation of the Adaptive Student Athlete Program (ASAP). This national program significantly expands access to competitive opportunities in Para track and field, wheelchair tennis, and wheelchair basketball for collegiate student athletes with disabilities, paving the way for them to increase their participation and receive equitable recognition alongside their able-bodied peers.

University of Michigan ASF is working with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to create opportunities for Para athlete participation at competitive events.   University of Michigan ASF’s relationship with Guardian includes a grant that will fund some of those opportunities. The first major event made possible by Guardian takes place April 27-29 as part of the Drake Relays, during which an inaugural collegiate national champion in Para track and field will be crowned. The funding covers the costs of the wheelchair racing portion of the event as well as Para athlete travel, lodging, and other costs.

“As a leading disability insurer and financial services provider, Guardian is proud to fund this effort,” said Jonathan Mayhew, Guardian’s Head of Group Benefits business. "Our purpose is to inspire well-being for the partners, customers, members, and communities that we serve. With this grant, we hope to help people with disabilities thrive and move beyond limits.”

"The Drake Relays has innovated in the sport of track and field for more than 11 decades and we are proud to work with the USOPC, the University of Michigan, and Guardian to lead in this new way," said Blake Boldon, Franklin P. Johnson Director of the Drake Relays. "Since 2015, Drake Relays fans have applauded world-class performances from Paralympic athletes, so crowning the first-ever collegiate wheelchair national champion is an exciting next page in the history of an event long regarded as America’s Athletic Classic."

The full list of major 2023 events made possible by Guardian’s funding includes:

  1. April 27-29: Collegiate Para Track and Field National Championships (Held at Drake Relays) in Des Moines, Iowa.
  2. May 19-20: Wheelchair Tennis National Championship Finals (Held alongside NCAA DI-DIII Collegiate Tennis National Championships) in Orlando, Florida.
  3. September 28-October 1: A University of Michigan wheelchair basketball tournament at Saint Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Michigan.

“It is exciting to see ASAP launch after years of planning to ensure the best possible experience for Para-athletes across multiple sports,” said Francine Chew, Guardian’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility. “Guardian is grateful to the University of Michigan for putting our grant dollars to work, as well as to the USOPC and USTA for their collaboration to help expand opportunities for collegiate athletes with disabilities.”

“This program is about so much more than these events,” said Dr. Oluwaferanmi O. Okanlami, M.D., M.S., Director of Student Accessibility and Accommodation Services at the University of Michigan, which includes leadership of Adaptive Sports & Fitness. “I know the opportunities I had as a college student-athlete before my disability; our hope is that student-athletes with disabilities will eventually have equitable access to those types of opportunities as well.”

About Guardian

Guardian makes a difference in the lives of people when they need us most. With more than 160 years of stability and fiscal integrity, we are a trusted partner to millions of consumers, helping them prepare and plan for a bright future and recover and thrive in times of unexpected loss. We believe in inspiring well-being across mind, body, and wallet, and in driving value beyond dividends. We invest in our colleagues, are building a progressive and inclusive culture and are helping to uplift communities through thoughtful social and environmental programs. Guardian, which is based in NYC, is a leading provider of life, disability, dental, and other benefits, and has received accolades for its culture and service. Our colleagues and financial representatives serve with care and experience, and our commitments rest on a strong financial foundation, which at year-end 2022 included $11 billion in capital and largest dividend of $1.26 billion in the company’s history. For more information, visit or follow us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and YouTube

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About the University of Michigan and the Adaptive Sports Fitness Program

Physical fitness is vital for everyone’s health and wellness, and individuals with disabilities need and want physical fitness just as much as their non-disabled peers. Participation in sport is one way many people enjoy being physically active, however the lack of adaptive sport and inclusive fitness programming often limits one’s ability to participate. Adaptive sports use modifications of rules or equipment that allow for equitable participation in sport by people with disabilities. Our vision is to lead the state of Michigan and the nation in adaptive sport and fitness by embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion in order to increase awareness about, knowledge of, access to, and participation in adaptive sports and fitness among people with and without disabilities.


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