The Athlete to Athlete program is growing in Loudoun County. Completely run by high-school students, this program now expanded from Dominion High School to Stone Bridge High School. The goal of the club is to connect athletes with special needs with area athletes and build comradery. Ages of athletes with special needs range from elementary- school aged through adult. Sports clinics are held during the school year and athletes meet for warm-ups, station drills and a concluding game. Volleyball and basketball are popular picks.
This fall Cullen Fleming organized a new chapter of Athletes to Athletes for Stone Bridge High School and already has 21 student club members.
"It’s fun and it brings special-need athletes and athletes closer together," Cullen said. He became interested in athletes with special needs after observing the Broad Run Special Olympics.
"PRINCIPAL JAMES Person, the Stone Bridge staff and the athletic department are very proud of the Athlete to Athlete program and the group’s efforts. We hope it’s a big success and will lead to future events," said Matt Wilburn, assistant principal, Stone Bridge High School.
The Athlete to Athlete program was founded by Dominion High School athletic director Joe Fleming and has been at Dominion High School for about four years. The program is designed to be student run and event preparation tasks are divided among the teens so communication, equipment and overall coordination are accomplished. Student Mackenzie Fleming designed the logo for the club’s T-shirts donated by Cheers Sports, Ashburn.
"This program encourages volunteerism and increases community service. It is incredibly rewarding," said Andrew Livingstone, student director of Athlete to Athlete at Dominion High School. "It’s a special place for everyone; people are friendly and open. I couldn’t imagine going to another school."
Livingstone has been involved with the program since 2006 and became interested in athletes with special needs during a summer volunteer experience.
Dominion High School’s Athlete to Athlete program has about 60 students and members from of the school’s cheerleading teams and varsity athletes also volunteer at events.
"This program tears down barriers and disabilities can be overcome. It’s a win-win for both parties and builds self-esteem," said Joe Fleming.
A couple more schools are interested in starting Athlete to Athlete programs and Cullen recommends new student leaders should stick with it. "It will be hectic at first, but buckle down."
School Board member Bob Ohneiser said, "Connecting people with programs like this engenders positive growth for all participants — student athletes and adults alike."
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