Giving back to the community through volunteer work led two Douglas students, Danielle Barrett and Kelsey Merritt to design an entire adaptive soccer program, get college credit for their Bachelor of Therapeutic Recreation program and to top it off, help children and youth with disabilities in a purposeful way.
“It has been an incredible experience learning new skills on how to work with people of all ages and abilities. It can get very intense at times as it is a very hands on program, but when you are passionate about something it makes it easier to put everything you have into it” Kelsey says about the TR program at Douglas.
As a result, both women became interested in volunteering with the Port Moody Soccer Club – Adaptive Soccer Program, after they saw a volunteer recruitment ad. Kelsey and Danielle have been playing soccer for 20 years, which made this opportunity a great fit. As the Adaptive Soccer program became more popular, they later became coaches, more kids started to sign up, and the program enrolment expanded through word of mouth.
Children at the Adaptive Soccer program are between the ages of 6-16. The program welcomes children of all disabilities. The specialized programming adapts to the needs of the children and is ever changing to meet the kids where they are at. “Many of these children have difficulty processing instructions and performing. We have to adapt our techniques to their individual levels and provide one-on-one support,” says Kelsey.
The need for this one-on-one support drove the two Douglas students to bring in more classmates to help with the adaptive program. Teri Shaw, the director of the Adaptive Soccer Program in Port Moody, reached out to the Douglas Therapeutic Recreation coordinator to see if there was a way to develop the adaptive program any further. “There is a lot of demand, but the program requires volunteers and a safe, confined space,” says Teri. It was suggested that both Kelsey and Danielle work on a project for their 4th year Management course, which includes marketing and planning. In other words, letting them present and develop an entire successful training program for the club.
“Douglas gave us the ability to design the program. This was a meaningful way to use soccer to help kids who don’t have the opportunity to play mainstream soccer,” says Danielle. “We completed a marketing plan on how to work with the community to gain participants and identify opportunities to make the program grow.”
Danielle and Kelsey continue to remain involved as coaches with the Port Moody Adaptive program while holding down jobs, Kelsey is the Program Coordinator at West Coast Kids Cancer Foundation, and Danielle is a Recreation Therapist at Enable Occupation Therapy.
“Our degrees have set us up for success and the success of the adaptive soccer program is a real testimony. There is still a lot to learn, but we are ready and capable of jumping in,” says Danielle.