KEEN Sports: Improving the Lives of Youth with Disabilities through Physical Activities – Elizabeth Doherty

Impact story submitted by KidCents Charity, KEEN Greater DC:

Like many 10-year-old boys, Toby is into basketball and football. But not so long ago, his Mom Jennifer, says, “he could barely bounce, throw or catch a ball.” What’s changed? Toby enrolled in KEEN Greater DC’s Sports program and the impact has been felt by the whole family. “Through KEEN he was allowed to play basketball in his way, at his own pace, with his own rules,” says Jennifer.

Like other children with autism, Toby found it difficult to keep up with the fast decisions and fine motor skills that team play demands. So when other kids his age were out on the court, Toby sat on the sidelines. “Before being involved in KEEN Sports he could not do it. He was intimidated because of his physical limitations compared to his peers,” says Jennifer.

She credits the KEEN Greater DC volunteer coaches for boosting her son’s confidence. “The way that they’re running it, allowing the kids to take control of the games, gives them the confidence that they can do this too! They just make them feel very special and important. That to me has just been awesome and it’s made all the difference in Toby’s comfort level with athletics.”

As Toby’s confidence has grown, his communication with peers has increased and given him a range of new interests. “Now he’s not only playing basketball, he can throw and catch a football. He can bounce and throw and actually play games with his peers,” Jennifer says.

With less TV-watching and more activity, she and her husband have seen a spill-over effect on Toby’s interaction with the rest of the family. Daughter Sam, 17, is on a softball team at school. “So now she and Toby are out playing ball together. It has given her a better understanding and patience with him.”

For 6-year-old sister Tonya, KEEN has reinforced the value of acceptance. “She doesn’t think twice about kids with differences. With KEEN you have all kinds of kids. To see these kids and the pride they take in everything they do, that has brought me great joy to see that.”

Toby is now diving into the KEEN Greater DC swimming program as well, looking forward to fun in the pool. “The fact that they involve the entire family is awesome,” says Jennifer. “You couldn’t ask for a better program.”

Charity: KEEN Greater DC

Categories: Success Stories

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