Join Yom Sport volunteer and committee member, Lisa Alpert (LA), and Director of Friend 2 Friend, Jan Klein (JK), as they take a trip down memory lane. This Sunday marks 20 years for Yom Sport, a day of fun and friendly competition for adults with disabilities.
Reflecting on your experience of the event, what’s the same as it was when you started? What’s different?
LA: The flow of the day is basically the same as the very first event I attended nearly 15 years ago. We gather, we play games and compete, we celebrate, we eat, we part ways. The event was already a success when I joined the committee. But since that time, we have refined so many elements and details of the day to enhance the experience for all of our participants, that for me, the event is completely different.
And, in 20 years, what’s changed on the disabilities landscape, generally? What’s improved? Where do we still have work to do to be more inclusive?
JK: This year celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. For people with disabilities, physical access to places and transportation has dramatically improved since the ADA was signed into law in July, 1990. Awareness of the needs of people with disabilities has also increased, providing a greater general understanding and sensitivity. But strides still need to be made. Stigma surrounding disabilities remain present. The recognition that the need for friendship beginning in childhood for people with disabilities and the role it plays in overall health and happiness is just recently being included as part of the discussion around barriers and access. There’s lots to be learned and modeled from programs such as Yom Sport and Friend 2 Friend.
What’s your favorite Yom Sport memory?
LA: One year, early on, I worked at the athlete registration table. For some reason, that year there was an amazing connection between the athletes and the committee members registering them that morning. The excitement and anticipation were palpable. I remember feeling so exhilarated about that.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
LA: There are a couple of things about Yom Sport that I love every year. There’s a moment sometime during the event, when I look out across the field from one end to the other and see a massive crowd of people, unified by their colorful event shirts, all working together. It’s the perfect mental snapshot. Another is the moment I realize we have a full roster of athletes and that all the planning and work has paid off. Nearly 200 adults with disabilities have come to participate and enjoy the day.
What do you hope athletes take away from their experience? What about volunteers?
LA: I hope that athletes and volunteers both take away some similar things: A sense of accomplishment and pride, a better understanding of and appreciation for people who have different abilities and the desire to do it all again next year.
A few words about the planning committee?
LA: I’ve gotten to know some amazing people through the years. We have committee members who have been there from the beginning, and others who have come and gone, but all are dedicated to producing a great event every year – no one phones it in! Jan leads the group in such a professional yet fun way. She’s consistent, patient, knowledgeable, and tireless in her efforts.
JBBBS extends the happiest anniversary to Yom Sport, its organizers, volunteers and athletes!