The Star Malaysia - Star2
Running for life
Big-hearted volunteers guide special-needs children to become confident through sports coaching.
ON a late Sunday morning at a running event in Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur, a group of bright-eyed children with wide smiles and running medals gleaming in the sunlight, were exchanging high fives with their running mentors.
For them, it was their first medal; achieved that morning through weeks of practice. At the start line, they did not know if they could finish the race. At the finish line, they had outran their doubts and disabilities.
These are the differently-abled children of Care2Run. Together with their running mentors, the children crossed the finish line, completing their first ever running event with renewed belief in their own capabilities.
Most children who started out with us had low self-confidence and were painfully shy – they didn’t want to join the running sessions.
Nevertheless, we managed to break the ice to unleash their hidden potential after a 10-week mentoring programme led by Eric Chong, Care2Run volunteering programme leader.
“As the programme progressed, the children became increasingly animated and displayed positive changes in behaviour,” recalled Chong, a fitness trainer. “This motivated me to increase my efforts towards developing the children.”
The perseverance in 13-year-old mentee Zaine also inspired volunteer trainer Zanariah Zainal.
“Even though Zaine ran faster than me, my mentee took care of me as much as I took care of him. It was such a lovely experience,” commented Zanariah.
Another volunteer, 70 year-old Floria Leong, reminisced, “It was a memorable moment to see all the children with different learning abilities reaching the finish line, whether it was for 3km, 5km or 10km runs.”
The mentor-mentee relationship builds a special bond between an adult volunteer and a child – guiding a child each week and bringing out the best in them. The children engage with play-based activities outdoors to boost their self-esteem and physical literacy.
Denise Temmink, Care2Run programme leader, commented, “The programme is built on the model of physical literacy; focussing on reaching full potential in movement of participants by offering a range of activities, using a range of equipment. By stimulating different movements and muscle groups, children get the chance to develop their whole body.”
She further explained that this approach develops not only the body but also bridges the left and right brains to benefit the child in their academic achievements and social life as well.
14-year old Wei Ern has shown tremendous improvement with Care2Run. His mother, Jamie enrolled her son in the programme because she wanted to expose him and develop his social skills through outdoor activities.
“He is now independent with more confidence to be around others besides family members,” said Jamie.
She highly recommends parents to introduce their children to Care2Run.
“Besides physical activities, children get to meet big-hearted and enthusiastic volunteers who guide and inspire them to be confident persons,” added Jamie.
Another mother, Sally, reinforced Jamie’s words; also noticing positive changes in Max, her 16-year old son diagnosed with autism.
“He is empowered from the programme as it leverages on sports as a personal development platform.”
Scholarships for 2018
Care2Run will be giving out scholarships in 2018, with each one covering 10 sessions of 1-to-1 adaptive sports coaching and mentoring.
Parents of different learning needs children between the ages of 8 and 16, who are in need of financial assistance, are encouraged to apply for these.
In addition to the 10-week curriculum of the scholarships, Care2Run trains mentors before they go onto the field to work with the children.
Parents are also introduced to Care2Run team members to foster better understanding about the programme. The mentors become role models to the children but by the end of the programme, both are buddies who support each other.
“Care2Run activities are non-competitive and focus on physical fitness, fine and gross motor skills, team work, stimulating empathy and creative thinking,” concluded Temmink.
Most importantly, volunteers who inspire the children are in turn inspired by the children’s perseverance to rise beyond physical limitations of diagnosed disabilities.
Care2Run always welcomes volunteers to channel their passion and unique talents into the programme and also look forward to collaborating with more corporate sponsors.