The YMCA of Greater Houston, Humble ISD Foundation and Humble ISD Form Partnership to Support a Growing Number of Children with Disabilities
Children with disabilities in northeast Harris County will soon have a place to play sports, perhaps for the first time in their lives.
Last fall marked the groundbreaking of an adaptive sports complex – which features two fields specifically designed for wheelchairs and walkers. The complex will cater to children with physical and mental disabilities, including students in the Humble Independent School District (Humble ISD).
The $4.8 million sports complex is being built in partnership between the YMCA of Greater Houston, the Humble Independent School District Education Foundation (Humble ISD Foundation) and Humble ISD. It will be located between the district’s new elementary and middle schools.
Those at the groundbreaking ceremony included: YMCA President and CEO Paul McEntire, Humble ISD Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen, and Jay Mincks, the executive vice president of Insperity, the lead donor of the sports complex with a $1 million gift.
The second of its kind in the county, the Adaptive Sports Complex is putting the Greater Houston area on the map in terms of its strong commitment to children with special needs and to adaptive sports venues that are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Kids actually get to feel what it’s like to hit a ball, run to a base, and experience sports like children without disabilities do,” said Paul McEntire, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Houston. “It brings them a sense of joy and accomplishment, not to mention the thrill of people in the stands cheering for them.”
Players, including those involved in Miracle League baseball for children with special needs, will be able to play sports without fear of injury. Each will have a “buddy,” a YMCA volunteer who can help them swing their bats and move from base to base.
The fields also are equipped to handle soccer, softball, flag football, kickball, field-day games and the Special Olympics.
“Humble ISD is excited to partner with the YMCA to establish a new and innovative outdoor facility,” said Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen. “All students and families should be able to experience fun and healthy physical activities together. Inclusive environments make that possible.”
Funded through the YMCA, the Humble ISD Foundation and other partners and sponsors, the sports complex will sit on five acres owned by the school district. Humble ISD will own, maintain and utilize the facility during the school day, and the YMCA will use the facility during the evenings and on weekends. This partnership is expected to maximize the number of children who will use the facility.
“This is a unique partnership in terms of the YMCA, a major school district and the community working together to build this much-needed facility,” said Mark Koenig, co-chair of the Sports For All Campaign, which is raising money for the complex. “We hope that this partnership will become a model to build even more adaptive sports complexes in the Houston area.”
The new sports complex will feature two multi-purpose fields made with a cushioned, synthetic turf that allows mobility devices to easily move and not get bogged down in grass or mud. The complex will also include a barrier-free playground with ramps, special swings and jungle-gym equipment for children with disabilities to climb and play alongside their siblings and friends. The playground’s tactile, visual and auditory components are designed to engage children with autism and other developmental conditions. Furthermore, a large pavilion equipped with modified hoops for basketball will also serve as a gathering place and concessions stand. Quiet rooms will be available when overstimulation occurs in special needs children.
“This is a very meaningful partnership because it is providing children and young adults with disabilities the opportunity to experience something that they otherwise may never have experienced,” said Joe Cleary, co-chairman of the capital campaign. “And let’s not forget about the parents who get to sit back and relax in the bleachers and watch their children have fun without worrying that they won’t fit in.”
Construction could be completed by late summer of 2017 – just in time to celebrate opening day of The Miracle League’s fall season – but it is dependent on the success of fundraising efforts. Major donors include Insperity, the Houston Astros Foundation, Be An Angel, and community leaders and philanthropists Joe and Cathy Cleary.
For more information, please visit: www.ymcahouston.org/sports-for-all.