Eight Nelson high school students have started a local chapter of the Special Olympics Active start program for young kids with disabilities.

L.V. Rogers launches Active Start chapter

Thanks to the leadership of eight Grade 12 students, Special Olympics BC — Nelson is preparing to launch a fun new program.

Thanks to the leadership of eight Grade 12 students, Special Olympics BC — Nelson is preparing to launch a fun new program that will open a world of opportunities in motor, social, and sport skill development for children with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics BC’s Active Start program has been specifically created for children with intellectual disabilities ages two to six, designed to help them develop essential basic motor skills in a fun and supportive environment that also helps them bloom socially.

Many individuals with intellectual disabilities have reported feeling left behind by traditional sport programs, and family members have described the heartbreak of watching their active children with intellectual disabilities retreat and feel isolated during programs that aren’t specifically designed for their needs.

Active Start provides a fun and safe environment where the children love playing with the equipment and gain confidence physically and mentally as they achieve goals and do things they could not before.

The L.V. Rogers students — Erica Augsten, Tessa Exley, Sarah Harley, Rachel Kinakin, Natasha Lecerf, Calena Marchand, Daniel MacFarlane, and Danielle Solari — saw an opportunity to get involved by helping to launch this program with the Special Olympics BC — Nelson branch. After hearing a presentation from Special Olympics BC community development manager Cyra Frisk, they became interested in the world of Special Olympics, and the idea of working with younger kids with intellectual disabilities appealed to them, Tessa Exley said.

That age is “a really important time in their life to start working on and developing their motor skills and sport skills,” Exley noted.

Exley has been into sports throughout her life, and has been a member of the acclaimed Nelson Rhythm Ropers for more than seven years. She feels it is important to give back to her community with the kind of opportunities that Special Olympics provides.

“I think it’s a really great program, giving really good support for people with intellectual disabilities,” Exley said. “I think it’s really important to do that sort of work in our communities.”

The students’ interest is making it possible to have Active Start in Nelson. The students are going to help lead the program as facilitators, with support from Exley’s mother.

Active Start is the first part in a continuum of Special Olympics BC youth programs, followed by FUNdamentals and Sport Start programming, which would offer further opportunities for the next age groups and help Active Start participants’ transition into developing sport skills and growing into full-fledged Special Olympics sport programming. If more volunteers come on board to help coach Special Olympics BC, Nelson could begin to offer the further youth programs as well.

Once the Active Start program is launched, it will be important to provide the young participants with something to move on to, Exley noted. The more volunteers involved, the more opportunities can be offered.

Volunteers interested in the heart-expanding experience of coaching and supporting children with intellectual disabilities can join in a free training session for youth program coaches on Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. at KidSport Nelson. To reserve a place, please contact Cyra Frisk at 250-919-0757 or cfrisk(at)specialolympics.bc.ca.

To enroll children in the Special Olympics BC — Nelson Active Start program set to begin Sunday at The Family Place, please contact Exley at asset_exley(at)live.ca or Lecerf at n.lecerf(at)hotmail.com. One parent or caregiver must participate along with each child, and will have fun doing so.

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