YMCA Challenger celebrates 10 Years of adaptive sports in K.C.
The Y Challenger program for children and young adults with special needs provides physical fitness, personal growth, fun and friendships through recreation and social activities. This summer marks the 10th anniversary of the program. What began as a single sport with 50 kids has grown to year-round sports, camps, and social activities with the participation of nearly 1,500 families in the Kansas City area.
Parenting Children with Special Needs talks with Raegan Schurr, adaptive program director, about the program. “Kids with special needs don’t have to be on the sidelines with YMCA Challenger,” said Schurr.
What special needs does YMCA Challenger provide for?
Special needs are so wide ranging. Because YMCA Challenger provides a one-to-one helper to participant ratio, we can provide sports or social activities that are inclusive of all ability levels, regardless of whether those limitations are physical, developmental, or intellectual.
What kinds of programs are available?
We offer team and individual sports like baseball, basketball, bowling, flag football, soccer, tennis and fitness for kids as young as four-years-old. No matter what time of year, there’s always something going on. Most sports are one night a week for six weeks. Sports fundamentals take priority over competition, where physical activity, teamwork and fun are the goals.
Over the years YMCA Challenger has grown with the needs of our patrons. When we started, programs were geared more for younger children. Now we also offer social and independent living activities for young adults from age 12 to 30. Young adult programs, such as dances, visiting the zoo or attending T-Bones games, take place once a month. These events provide opportunities to work with patrons on bathroom skills, ordering from a concession stand, and counting out money. In addition, through our partnership with UMKC, young people can learn career development skills. To date we have 120 graduates of this program.
Who can participate?
It’s a common misperception that you have to be a member of the Y in order to join YMCA Challenger. We are open to anyone with special needs, and activities are grouped both by age and ability so that individuals can participate as fully as possible. Part of what makes this program unique is that every athlete is partnered with a volunteer Buddy, who serves as friend, coach, and protector, allowing parents to watch from the sidelines.
In addition, we have not raised our fees in 10 years, since starting YMCA Challenger. Even so, no athlete will be turned away because of financial need.
What’s one of the coolest things about YMCA Challenger?
The Fred and Shirley Pryor complex in the Northland (Near 152 Highway and Platte Purchase Rd.) is specially designed to be fully accessible for athletes with special needs. It consists of the Mark Teahen Challenger Baseball Field, the Trent Green Family Field, American Family Insurance Field and an accessible playground. The existing fields serve younger athletes well, but as our patrons grow bigger and stronger, larger fields are necessary. The final phase of the complex will include two baseball fields made out of synthetic grass that can be used as multi-purpose space for volleyball, soccer and other activities, as well as a walking trail that will circle the complex.
Find out about upcoming Challenger sports and get registered.
Tips for getting kids active this summer
The kids are out of school for the summer and the last thing most parents want are hours upon hours of screen time, whether it’s TV, video games, or playing on their phone. (Many parents say setting a timer is a good way to remind kids to turn off the electronics.) While a pick-up game of whiffle ball or riding bikes in the neighborhood with friends is the ideal, safety and available adult supervision sometimes limits these options. Here are just a few ideas to get your kids (and you) moving.
• Create an activity log modeled after the public library’s summer reading program. Have a treasure chest of dollar store prizes. For every 5 hours your kid records doing something active, allow them to choose a prize. The goal is 60 minutes of activity per day.
• Create a family fitness challenge to see who can log the most miles on your pedometer each day/week. Make walks or bike rides part of evening family time. Check out local parks and trails together.
• Make a list of local sights or community events to check off visiting over the summer together as a family. Farmer’s markets, festivals, museums, parks, and more.
• Host a sprinkler or slip-n-slide party with neighborhood friends.
• Buy a kids’ fitness DVD for at-home aerobics.
• Make a bucket of balls, hula hoops, Frisbees, nerf toys, water guns for backyard fun.
• Check out local day camps or Kids Night Out events at local YMCAs.
• Turn up the music for a dance party.