How have your programs have grown, changed, or evolved to become a key community service during this time?
Our programs have evolved to help two major gaps that were heightened by the pandemic: health inequity and social connection. Many public resources on COVID-19 are not accessible for people with intellectual disabilities; we distributed clear and concise information with visual aids and created a resource page on our website. To ensure that our athletes are still prioritizing their health during challenging times, we have offered numerous virtual health challenges, including a 5K training program and a Healthy Minds challenge focusing on emotional wellness. We also have offered weekly Trivia, Bingo, Social Hour, and more via Zoom since the beginning of the pandemic to provide connection for our athletes so that they do not face social isolation, and can still join together with their community for friendly competition.
Have any unexpected opportunities arisen for your organization's work in this past year?
The virtual world that we are all now living in has provided numerous learning opportunities for our athletes. Many of them are now extremely comfortable using new technologies like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, thanks to our weekly activities hosted on these platforms! Some athletes are also trying new sports since we have adjusted our calendar and practice/competition format to ensure safety of all participants. For example, we shipped out hundreds of at-home basketball skill kits. For rural athletes who might not have a local basketball team, or folks who usually spend the season participating in a different sport, this is giving them the opportunity to try something new and expand their skills!
What can the community do to help?
Donations mean more than ever - transitioning all of our sports to virtual or socially distanced has increased costs, we are providing virtual programming that has never been offered before, and the need for our services has only increased. If you are not able to contribute financially, consider participating in one of our events like Polar Plunge or Plane Pull (both outdoors and socially distanced), or volunteering with us. A major volunteer need is our weekly virtual programs. Get your family and friends together and volunteer to host a Bingo or Trivia game!