There was bouncing, jumping, running and ball games along with quieter activities like reading, coloring, face painting or just watching at the KEEN Greater DC Sports Festival at Avenel Park Sunday.
The day celebrated 27 years that KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) has provided exercise and recreation programs in the DC area for young people with developmental and/or physical disabilities.
The program meets monthly, September through June, and brings together KEEN athletes with volunteer coaches in one on one partnerships, allowing the athletes, some living with autism, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome, to participate fully in exercise and recreational activities in the community. Participation is free for all.
“I love it,” Mary Andrade, of Germantown, said. “They give the opportunity to the kids to enjoy [themselves] and the family can come.”
Mary brought her daughter, Michelle, 22, to the Festival, along with a younger sibling. Michelle seemed fascinated by the dogs, who were also there for a day with their families. She didn’t want to touch, just follow and watch them.
Daniel Padilla, 7, from Fairfax, Va., sat quietly while volunteer Michele Doyle painted his face to look like a pirate, finishing with a great expression.
Doyle said this was her 10th year helping at the Festival.
“I love it,” she said. “It gives me such joy to be here. When you are with the kids you have no choice but to be present. They can do anything and not be judged.”
Doyle’s sister, Jennifer Sabatini, and her daughter Isabella came from North Carolina to help with face painting.
“It’s a good cause,” Jenifer Sabatini said. “It’s helping the kids, helping my sister and we like to give back.”
KEEN executive director Beata Okulska said there were more than 600 people at Sunday’s event, athletes, coaches, parents, siblings and friends.
“Anyone can come and volunteer,” she said. “We say, ‘Open heart, open minds and a good imagination,’ that makes the magic.”
Potomac’s own Potomac Pizza arrived with 150 pizzas for the group to enjoy.
“They have been a great supporter,” Okulska said.
For more information, visit www.KEENGreaterDC.org.