Children with disabilities find strength
Eagan recreation program offers variety of sporting opportunities
Eleven-year-old Nathan Grater was focused as he approached the lane at Cedarvale Bowling on Sunday evening. He grinned and clapped as the ball struck the pins – a spare.
At a glance, it seems like a typical night at the Eagan bowling alley, but for the handful of children playing that night, it’s much more. It’s a moment to feel included.
Grater and his teammates are part of Eagan Parks and Recreation’s adaptive recreation program, which provides sports for children with disabilities.
The noncompetitive program offers a variety of activities such as bowling, basketball, fishing and yoga and is open to children who have all kinds of disabilities.
“Our goal is to work with youth and help them develop self-esteem, social skills and motor skills while participating in a sports environment,” said Kerry Phillips, Eagan recreation supervisor.
Helping children build these skills is the job of Mark Meinhardt, who has coached adaptive sports for the past four years.
“It’s a lot of fun working with these kids,” he said. “They will surprise you.”
About 25 to 30 children participate in the program each summer, which has dropped slightly as older children age out of the program. Phillips said she hopes more families will join as the city works to raise awareness.
The program has been a positive experience for Nathan, who has autism.
Over the past four years he has played adaptive bowling, basketball and soccer through Eagan Parks and Recreation.
“He likes to be able to get out and do things with other kids who are at his pace,” his mother, Debbi, said.
Eagan’s adaptive sports are a mainstay for 9-year-old Ben Wilmes, who has Down syndrome.
Wilmes is a member of the bowling team and for the past three years has played on Eagan’s adaptive basketball and T-ball teams.
His mother, DeAnn, said she has noticed the program has helped Wilmes build social skills and self-esteem.
“He often wants to be independent and go out to do things with others,” she said. “This allows him to do that.”
Though she likes the programs currently offered, DeAnn said she hopes the city will add dance and gymnastics to its programming.
For more information on Eagan’s adaptive recreation programs visit http://www.ci.eagan.mn.us/live/article.aspx?id=40280 or call (651) 675-5500.