The Advocate

All Abilities Athletics expands, continues to impact community

Photo by Ria Haag

Photo by Ria Haag

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Almost a year ago, history was made on the grounds of WHS when All Abilities Athletics held its first official event on its campus’ football field and track. All Abilities Athletics was started by Chris Homyk, the father of a child with autism. After his son attended similar groups in St. Louis, Chris recognized the need for a program in the Washington area.

“All Abilities is designed to give firstclass athletic opportunities to kids with special needs,” Homyk said. “We do it with great high school volunteers, supervised by special education directors, teachers and therapists.”

All Abilities holds events at local high schools where kids with all levels of special needs are paired with a volunteer, called a buddy. These buddies help them through games and activities the event is offering. Both WHS and St. Francis Borgia High School have held events on their campus.

Since the idea of AAA came to Chris, the program has evolved and grown in ways he never could have imagined.

“We had 26 athletes and probably 70 volunteers when we started, and that was amazing when they showed up the first day,” Homyk said. “Now we have about 100 athletes and over 400 people have served as volunteers.”

The growth of the program has led to the development of what All Abilities has to offer the community. Water events are now an option for families involved in the program. These events are located at the Four Rivers YMCA swimming pool, where athletes are paired with a buddy that aids them in swimming and breathing techniques, floating and water safety.

“What we’re trying to do is expand from our original offerings, to be as inclusive as we can,” Homyk said. “Now that we have great volunteers from backgrounds of different sports, we are able to offer this.”

The time spent in the pool is not just fun, but it is also extremely beneficial for these kids.

Those movements that may be difficult for our athletes to do on land can be easier done in the water. Water allows individuals to more easily move joints and muscles,” All Abilities Athletics Event Day Coordinator Laura Vilela said. “The water applies deep pressure for our athletes with sensory needs and children that have autism tend to seek water.”

The athletes who take part in AAA have been experiencing huge benefits from the program, and families are taking notice.

“I think one of the biggest benefits is they open up and they try new things here and they’re more open in the classroom to try different things,” Homyk said. “It permeates their life, their social life and their education.”

All Abilities not only benefits the kids involved, but the families of these athletes as well. The parents of athletes often get to know one another and share ideas, tips and suggestions with each other. The program makes both parents and children feel included and heard.

“I think it’s created a parent network. It introduces people that maybe have a kid with autism and they’re meeting families with an older kid with autism and they bounce ideas off each other,” Homyk said. “We don’t judge your kids here, we’ll work through it together.”

The benefits of this program wouldn’t be in existence if it weren’t for the people that volunteer consistently.

“I’m very proud of Washington High School. Between [WHS] and Borgia, the Career Center kids, the students that are in Teaching Careers and Health Careers and the different sports…I mean it’s just been amazing,” Homyk said. “There’s no way we succeed to the level we do without you guys.”

While the present is great for All Abilities, the future is bright.

“This isn’t where we’re going to be in three years,” Homyk said. “We’re going to offer different sports, we’re going to talk about making our community more inclusive for kids with special needs.”

As All Abilities Athletics is moving forward, they are always looking for new volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering or getting involved in the program, email Chris Homyk at  www.allabilitiesathletics.org or visit the AAA website at  [email protected] .

These special kiddos not only brighten one’s day but also their soul. There are no words to even describe what I experience every time we have an event day and I get to work with these special group of kids,” Vilela said. “You develop friendships, you see the growth and personality of these kids and it totally makes your day.”

 

About the Writer
McKenzie Dohm, Sports & Photo Editor

Senior McKenzie Dohm has been writing for The Advocate for two years and is the current sports and photo editor. She enjoys photography, hiking, trying new foods and spending time with friends. McKenzie is a member of the WHS girls swim team and has been competitively swimming since she was 12.

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All Abilities Athletics expands, continues to impact community