The Young Adult Association of San Juan didn’t strike out this year with holding the Special Olympics as it successfully took place at Paradise Lanes.
It was just last year that the event had been added back to the community after discussions held by the Family Resource Center and Island Rec. The group has been practicing for the competition since Sept. 15.
Clayton Banry, considered the leading activist and nicknamed president of YAAS, said, “It meant a lot to be able to be together and enjoy each other’s company and I saw so much team bonding. I think the Special Olympics helps the community by being a form of outreach that’s fun and inclusive and draws people in.”
Delphina Liles, Head Coach of the Special Olympics, and Youth Services Coordinator at the Joyce L. Sobel Family Resource Center, said “Bringing the Special Olympics into a community is no small task.”
Despite the challenges with bringing the event back, she said the Family Resource Center saw what a crucial services it was in lifting the community up after being deprived of it the last two years, so they were determined to bring it back.
The group began by fundraising last spring and started their trainings and paperwork at the end of August.
“I was lucky enough to witness the growth of every individual on the YAAS team,” she said. “For one member, it was their first time out of the house since the pandemic and it became a regular, weekly reason for them to get out. For another, it was their chance to shine as our main cheerleader, spreading her positive energy. Week by week, when members were asked to share their highlights of YAAS activities, bowling practice came up again and again.”
Adding onto what Liles said about YAAS members getting out of the house, Banry said, “Sometimes people with a disability feel uncomfortable being in public and the Special Olympics empowers people with a disability to get out. Plus, people with a disability don’t always the chance to participate in athletics and the Special Olympics makes it easier to get exercise and be on a team.”
With this year having so much success, YAAS is now budgeting and planning for a wider Special Olympics kick-off for the spring with track and field and golf in summer of 2022. However, to reach that goal they need coaches, volunteers, and funding.
“YAAS wants to acknowledge all the amazing community members that helped the Special Olympics happen this fall,” said Liles. “Big thank you to Scott at Paradise Lanes for opening the facility for us, to Becky Bell and Deb Nolan for pushing the need for the Special Olympics, to Alysanne Stack and Nicole Becker at Special Olympics Washington for all their help and support, to Jane Burton-Bell for being an inspiring bright light, to Kelly Crichton for all the love and baked goods, to Marsha McAllister, Angela Light, Petra Ramos for being supportive parents, and to everyone else who helped us make this happen.”