By Wendy Hunter and Ken Webster
Covid has presented some unique challenges for our Parkland Buddy Sports community of players, volunteers, coaches, board members and extended families.
It’s impossible to prepare kids for everything that’s going to be different through these times so parents have had to explain physical distancing, wearing masks, and why frequent hand washing is a must. For families with children and young adults with special needs, these changes can be more dramatic and impactful to their very focused routines. Going back to school, and resuming extracurricular activities, for this population has been especially concerning because many of these children have underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable.
Our program’s foundation is coordinating peer to peer interactions between our players with special needs and their student volunteer buddies for in person, outdoor sports activities. 2020 has given us the opportunity to become more creative in our programming by pivoting to new buddy teleconferencing experiences including online yoga, campfire style singalongs, fitness and karaoke.
Our first exposure to the virtual world was in May when our annual golf outing was postponed due to Covid, and we had to reschedule our scholarship awards presentation. We still wanted to formally recognize the six high school, senior scholarship winners, for their exceptional work so we produced a virtual awards ceremony. In addition to being able to officially celebrate these amazing students, it also gave us the chance to learn the ins and outs of “Zoom.” Best of all was having all six awardees and their joyful extended families in attendance! We continue to find new ways to participate together even if it can’t be done in person. Our latest venture is a virtual “Turkey Trot”, 5K/1M walk/run fundraiser taking place over Thanksgiving weekend to ensure we continue to raise funds to support our programs during these difficult times.
We have also used this time to tackle the job of designing a dynamic new website. Working with a stellar production company, we captured video content and combined it with the captivating photography we have from our “in house” photographers to launch a website that visually tells the story of Parkland Buddy Sports (www.parklandbuddysports.org).
Everyone involved with the program is looking forward to getting back onto Parkland’s beautiful fields and courts to play sports and to share smiles, high fives and bear hugs but, for now, we are delighted to offer virtual programming that gets our kids interacting with their buddies and a chance to get up, move and have fun! We couldn’t make the magic happen without the support of the dedicated coaches and board members who’ve been hard at work behind the scenes and of course to all of the families and student volunteers who stay engaged with us.
Parkland Buddy Sports is a 501c3 with the mission of providing opportunities for children and young adults with special needs and teen volunteers to come together to participate in organized sporting activities in a safe, fun filled environment.
To learn more, visit www.parklandbuddysports.com.