Teen Plus Social Nights on ZOOM
Fostering meaningful connections between young athletes, volunteers, coaches and communities is a core component of Backyard Sports Cares’ DNA. And while we’ve unfortunately had to hit pause on our in-person Special Needs Teen Social Nights, that isn’t stopping us from bringing people together. We’ve gone virtual!
The big idea came from volunteer Remy Mastey and a few of his fellow Red Shirts who missed interacting with their special needs athlete partners on Sunday mornings. They approached BYSC Executive Director Danny Bernstein with the idea to use the virtual meeting platform “Zoom” to meet up, talk and socialize. We knew right away this was a great way to enable everyone to stay connected, and “Teen Plus Social Nights” were born.
With guidance from BYSC coaches Dillon Faulkner and Vin Minotti, the Red Shirts planned and hosted the first social on Saturday, April 11th. “We were really excited to make this happen,” said Remy, speaking for the Red Shirts. “We all had good ideas of what we could do with technology we’re fortunate to have. The next step was to figure out the logistics. This was new territory for all of us.”
That first night, we were wowed by the participation among teen athletes and volunteers. At one point there were 30 kids in the ZOOM room! Seeing the smiles on everyone’s face and the greetings shared with friends they saw on the screen was meaningful to all involved.
Like the in-person Sunday classes, each Teen Plus virtual event follows a consistent routine. We begin with a group warm-up that includes stretching and in-place physical movement. That’s followed by an “icebreaker” to engage each individual, and then we all play a fun, interactive game together, like trivia or hangman. Each new activity is carefully planned and practiced during weekly meetings with the volunteers and BYSC staff to ensure all the kids have the opportunity to contribute and feel part of the group. Feedback on the virtual social nights has been very positive.
“What we’ve seen during meetups from the athletes and volunteers has been amazing,” said BYSC Program Director Vin Minotti. “Reaction from parents has been the same. The credit goes to our Red Shirt leaders. It was their idea and they’ve worked together to plan and execute each week’s event.”
These Saturday nights have been so well received that we decided to expand our virtual programming to one-on-one volunteer/teen athlete physical activities on Sunday mornings. (Check out the letter from a happy parent to learn more!)
“No matter what, we’re going to deliver programming to kids who need it,” said Danny Bernstein. “Whether it’s virtually or back on the field or in the gym when we’re able, Backyard Sports will always find ways to bring joy and make a positive impact.”