Why We Do What We Do
This year and into the foreseeable future, our athletes with special needs are facing pandemic challenges that place unprecedented stress on their physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. Over 12,500 youth with disabilities in Capital Region school systems are feeling the disruption’s effects even more keenly – not only because of their special needs, but also because of several unfair disparities they suffer:
- Nearly 1/3 of the children with disabilities in New York State live in poverty, and these households only make about half the income of their peers.
- Kids with special needs have a significantly higher rate of obesity than their “able-bodied” classmates. The vast majority of these children do not participate in sufficient physical activity to maintain health; when they do attempt to participate, they have high dropout rates.
- Nearly 1/4 of these kids will fail to graduate with a high school diploma, and about 85% will never achieve a Bachelor’s degree and as adults, nearly 2/3 will be unemployed.
Fortunately, the situation is far from insurmountable. Many of these youth have the potential to find a place in our society and economy where they can be productive, healthy, and thrive; they simply need a little extra help, which often comes down to time, resources, and expertise that the community at large lacks.
That’s how we help. STRIDE not only makes the highest possible impact on Capital Region youth with disabilities at just a fraction of larger organizations’ budgets, but we are also a national leader recognized as an industry expert in knowledge and best practices.
For the past 35 years, I have seen the power of STRIDE’s 18 adaptive sport and recreation programs firsthand. An entire generation of kids with special needs has learned to move beyond their disabilities and achieve life-changing results. By emphasizing a holistic approach that culminates in a new lifestyle for our children, we enhance physical, mental, social, and emotional health, helping kids find their place and their voice in life.
Covid-19 is not only forcing our disadvantaged and underserved youth to “adapt” to new times and circumstances; it is also forcing STRIDE to adapt at a level and speed we have never previously experienced. Financial support from our constituents has ensured that we will be able to adapt into 2021-22 and continue moving forward with innovative, safe programs.
In addition to a full array of adaptive winter programs, including new activities such as snowshoeing, kayaking and ice fishing, STRIDE is continuing to advance its collaboration with local educators and school systems. We are working with an education attorney to advocate to parents for having STRIDE activities count as PE Credit for distance learners in a Covid world. We are collaborating with Special Olympics for new programs at our SHARE Center, and considering new waterfront programs in the Berkshires; and Nordic skiing in Connecticut. Our expansion and adaptations are all thanks to our large community of supporters.
We couldn’t do what we do without each of you! Here’s hoping for a renewed 2022!
– From the Desk of Mary Ellen Whitney, CEO