We think it is interesting to hear the story of an organization from multiple angles. This week’s blog focuses on two individuals making an impact at Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation (CUSR, a special recreation program offered through partnership with Champaign & Urbana Park Districts). Read on to learn about Cory, an Inclusion Assistant and Brian, a Special Olympic program participant.
Cory has been working as an Inclusion Assistant at Leonhard Afterschool Program and other Champaign Park District sites for nearly four years. His amazing abilities and warm heart make him a tremendous asset of the inclusion programs.
The impact of Inclusion
Throughout his four years, Cory has noticed significant changes from his interaction with participants. With guidance and encouragement, participants are able to make better choices and communicate more at critical times. Also, since Cory works mostly with younger kids, he is able to watch how the kids grow both physically and emotionally.
Staff plays a major role
The role of staff in children’s development and their success in the program has a great impact. Cory has learned that kids love it when staff engage with them and are interested in what they are interested in learning. Kids want to have a more genuine relationship, and the relationship with Inclusion Assistants directly influences kids’ enjoyment and satisfaction of programming. For example, Cory noted that kids tend to dislike when they feel rules are not fair or when they seem arbitrary. Inclusion Assistants aide to calm them down and help them understand the rules by having a conversation with the participants.
Brian has been participating in Special Olympics Basketball for over five years and his mother, Anita, has always been his biggest supporter. While he has experiences with other sports (i.e., track and field and softball), basketball is Brian’s favorite. Now, basketball looms large in Brian’s life.
For the love of basketball
Brian is an active and outgoing kid. Always the type to jump into action, he loves to interact and do things with his friends. To him, basketball is the perfect outlet. Through all of the drills and running, basketball helps him release his energy. Also, during games, he is able to see his best friends and work together with them to accomplish the same goals of basketball: scoring and winning. Although winning and losing is not important for Brian, working on the same goals or tasks with his best friends make basketball his favorite sport.
Double duty: Friends and mentors
Unlike individual sports, basketball provides Brian more opportunities to observe how other friends behave and cope in different situations. Anita told us that sometimes Brian’s friends become his great mentors. Brian not only learns new skills or drills for basketball, but also learns how to better act in an appropriate manner in some social situations. Anita has seen Brian became more independent and mature through basketball.
Hidden gems in basketball
In addition to the benefits we expect from basketball (socialization, team work, fitness), Brian’s more surprising benefit is riding a bus. Often, Special Olympics basketball requires traveling. Even though the participants are not traveling long distances, this provides an opportunity for participants to escape the typical routines and experience novel sights. These adventures help to stimulate participants’ curiosity and helps them relieve stress, enhancing mental health in the long run.
CUSR is always delighted to hear how our programs contribute to our participants’ lives. We believe these experiences make amazing changes to our participants and community in the long run. CUSR is here to be a part of each moment. Join us and begin making beautiful changes with us!
Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation (CUSR) was formed through a cooperative agreement with the Champaign and Urbana Park Districts to provide recreation programs and leisure services for residents with disabilities.
Stories gathered by Chungsup Lee, Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation Intern.