“Promoting Playtime,” by Amanda Reimherr, SA Express-News
Promoting Playtime: Kinetic Kids offers recreational choices for disabled children.
By Amanda Reimherr, SA Express-News staff writer
Tracey Fontenot and Kacey Wernli understand how important play is in the lives of children especially those with disabilities.
The two physical therapists founded the nonprofit group Kinetic Kids, which offers children 18 months to 18 years of age with various physical and mental disabilities the opportunity to participate in gymnastics, T-ball, music, dance and recreational activities. The 4-year-old group serves more than 250 children with 30 different sports and recreation programs.
“Every child needs to play and feel confident about themselves. Part of the magic of childhood is playtime,” Fontenot said. “courage, self-esteem, pride and confidence are all things that can be gained by participating in sports and recreational activities, and all of those are crucial and development of children to be happy, well-adjusted people.”
The motto of the group is “Sports and recreation for all abilities.” Disabilities of the children who participate includes cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, seizure disorders, spina bifida and autism.
If a child uses a wheelchair, walker or crutches, it will not prevent participation in the groups activities, Fotnot said.
She explained that the group is not diagnosis specific and the only criteria for participating in any of the programs is that a child must be able to follow and respond to directions, be willing to participate in group activity, pose no threat or danger to self or others, not be disruptive and demonstrate a personal desire to partake in the activity.
“As physical therapist, we became very sympathetic to the children’s lives and knew that they were falling through the cracks because what the community offered them was very little, “ Fotnot said.
“There Are so many societal pressures on these kids everywhere, including school about what they can’t do or should do, that they needed to have a place to relax, be themselves, have fun, focus on positive accomplishments and be a kid the way normally-abled children do through sports and teamwork.”
“A lot of the children’s get left out and feel very left out. Their parents want to help them but often don’t have an option or don’t know how. We are here to help and provide options and resources,” she said.
“These are there moments to shine in the front and feel proud of themselves for their accomplishments. We give outtrophies and medals and the smiles on their faces just say it all. They tell their friends all about being on a team and how great it is. We want them to feel that pride.”
Physical and occupational therapist instructed activities, but Fotnot and Wernli prefer the instructors to have a background in the activity they are instructing.
“Tracey And I are physical therapist, but we think it is crucially important that all of the instructors are as well because then they can appropriately adapt the activity to the special-needs of a child,” Wernli said.
The group charges a small fee for the children to participate, but the fees only cover about 30 percent of the groups cost. Scholarships will be offered to those who have financial hardships, and the founder said no child will be turned away due to financial constraints.
Donations and contributions to the nonprofit are welcome, they added.
New activities offered this year will be basketball for those in wheelchairs or not and a general health and wellness class.
For more information and a complete list of activities, call (210) 748-5867 or visit the website at www.kinetickidstx.org.