Chapter 126 teams up with nonprofit for new programs

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

Chapter 126 Sports & Fitness is collaborating with a local nonprofit to bring programming for all age groups and parents.

Recently, Chapter 126 teamed up with The Miracle League of Connecticut—a nonprofit organization in West Hartford that allows children with physical and/or cognitive challenges to participate in recreational, educational and cultural activities in an accessible, nurturing and non-competitive environment.

Mike Michaud, executive director of The Miracle League of Connecticut, said when the non-profit was looking for a facility for indoor winter programs, teaming up with Chapter 126 was the perfect opportunity.

“We have such similar missions,” said Michaud.

Starting on Oct. 26 every Thursday morning, Chapter 126 and Miracle League will offer an inclusive play group for children (from birth to age five) with any and all abilities. The “University of Fun” will begin at 10 a.m., and will promote social skills and motor skills.

No registration is required for the program, which will run through April at Chapter 126’s Upson Street facility. There is a $5 drop-in fee, but discount passes are available.

“The whole idea is to provide a school readiness program that works for all ability levels, and also provide more of an active play space,” said Paul Weiland, adapted sports program coordinator for Chapter 126. “We’re going to mix in lateral play and free play in a gym environment—they can really use it as a place to burn off energy.”

“It also provides a welcoming, judgment-free atmosphere for folks,” added Michaud.

Another collaborative program is an expansion of Miracle League’s Kids Club, which is open to children with special needs and “typically developing” children starting

Michaud said this program was proven to be so successful for Miracle League last winter, that the nonprofit and Chapter 126 decided to expand it into a bigger program called “Super Saturdays,” which has three components: the Kids Club, the Varsity Sports Club, and parent group discussions.

Geared towards children ages four to 11, the KIDS Club will feature a variety of activities each week, including court sports, an obstacle course and other inclusive 60-minute activities.

The Varsity Sports Club will give youth ages 12 to 21 a chance to focus on a new sport, along with some time for skills drills and games for 90 minutes each week.

The fall session for both programs will take place every Saturday starting Nov. 4, and will continue through Dec. 16. Both programs also will run during a winter session, which takes place on Saturdays from Jan. 13 to Feb. 17.

While the Varsity Sports Club and KIDS Club are going on, parents who have children with special needs can participate in a resource and support group called “It Takes a Village.” The program will entail 45-minute group discussions each week about different topics that affect children and families with special needs. A speaker will facilitate the discussions, which will address topics like financial planning and advocacy in schools.

“It’s going to be a guided group discussion each week,” said Michaud. “We found that parents are the best resource for each other.”

Weiland said this program also will give parents hope that they are not alone in the challenges they face.

“They’re not alone in this hill they’re trying to climb. They have people to fall back,” said Weiland.

Chapter 126 and Miracle League also have offered a program for all people ages 13 to 20 with physical and cognitive challenges. The first and third Friday of each month now marks drop-in nights for teens, who can visit Chapter 126 from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is $5 per visit. The “Friday Night Friendzy” officially kicked off on Oct. 6, and will feature activities that meet the interests of visitors who stop by.

“We’re going to gauge what kind of things they want to do, and take it from there,” said Michaud.

Weiland said the first couple weeks of the teen drop-in nights will allow visitors to chose from a multitude of gym activities.

“We’ll have some movement video game activities and board games,” said Weiland, adding how the program will give teens a chance to make connections in a new setting. “The whole idea is building that sense of community.”

For more information, visit oakhillct.org/Chapter-126 or www.miracleleaguect.org/kidsclub.

Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.