I am Emma Bixler and I am a freshman majoring in public health. I am connecting my CSLP to Intro to Public Health with Professor Margolin. I have had the pleasure of working with KEEN, Kids Enjoying Exercising Now. This non-profit organization has different sites all over the country, I am working with the group of Greater DC area. With this organization I am working one-on-one with kids who have disabilities. Their disabilities range but each one enjoys working with the volunteers and has a lot of fun.
When I started, my expectations were playing with children with disabilities and helping them learn new skills, both social and physical. My expectations have certainly been met and I am so glad that I took the chance to work with KEEN. I have been officially put on the committee for volunteers and have more responsibilities than just playing with a child and keeping them company. I was surprised by how open and welcoming the staff is to all the volunteers. KEEN has been around for longer than I have been alive. One of the coordinators that I work with has been volunteering and running KEEN since I was born. It is amazing to see how much passion all of these people have and how much love they have towards all of the athletes. They all know each child and all the parents, as well as what the child likes, dislikes, and what their disability is. Since some of these children have been in the program since they were very young, the relationship between the child and the long-term coaches is heartwarming. I love that I am now a part of this community and I plan on continuing to work with KEEN even after this project is done. I also encourage my friends to participate and see what it is like.
This project has connected to my Intro to Public Health class because it is all about getting the children moving and learning healthy lifestyles. In class we talk a lot about the benefits of exercise and what it can do for children at a young age so they continue this practice as they grow up. Since there is an education piece in the work at KEEN, this also connects because one goal of public health is educating the population as much as possible in order to help them and benefit them. The biggest lessons that I will take away from this work with KEEN will be that it does not matter if you have a disability of any kind. You are still able to participate and learn like everyone else. Also I have learned to always keep a positive attitude when doing something that I am unfamiliar with. All of these kids try new things and continue to learn. It definitely makes me feel like I can do the same. I hope that the KEEN program continues to grow and more people try out being volunteers.