The Junior Orange Bowl’s “Sports Ability Games,” inspiring disabled children for 30 years, needs new and strengthened community support, according to two program leaders.
Scheduled this year from Nov. 29 through Dec. 1 at three different locations, the event that formerly hosted 500 or more youngsters in swimming, sailing, track and field competitions will likely attract only 300 this year after 295 took part in 2011.
“A combination of downside economics, reduced budgets and higher costs have taken their toll to stage an event that brings tears to your eyes when you see it,” said former Coral Gables Police Chief Richard J. Naue Jr. and JOB vice president Kathryn Swain speaking to a group in West Kendall on Sept. 26.
At that moment, Naue displayed a photo from the 2011 event, showing a father hugging his child, adding, “That’s what it’s like for some, like this dad, who had never even seen his disabled youngster take part in a physical sports event.
“It’s heart rending,” Naue said.
The three athletic events that kick off the Junior Orange Bowl festival “especially need corporate sponsors willing to lend their name to help sustain a program that has brought competitors from all over Florida and worldwide,” Naue told members of the Miami-Dade Police Hammocks District Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).
“Travel costs are one reason why sponsorships can help maintain participation since many would come with a little bit of help from our community,” he said.
In addition to corporate assistance, the Games welcome all kinds of contributions, including athletic and day-to-day equipment, clothing and volunteers.
“High school students can fulfill community hours by helping,” Swain noted.
The 2012 program:
Thursday, Nov. 29, Sailing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Shake-A-Leg Miami, 2620 S. Bayshore Dr. Friday, Nov. 30, Swimming competition from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Miami Springs Aquatic Center, 1401 Westward Dr., Miami Springs.
Saturday, Dec. 1, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Track and Field, Tropical Park, 7900 Bird Rd.
Field events include “soft toss and softball throw” to help even the most physically challenged youngsters to demonstrate capability in a winning effort, Naue said, noting athletic competition for disabled children began in the 1981 JOB Festival with a goal of emphasizing sportsmanship and safety while encouraging youngsters to overcome handicaps.
The program that began with just 40 participants grew steadily until the mid-2000s when economic hardships began taking their toll on both participation and community support, he explained.
Hammocks CAC members informally decided to create a support program of their own to be finalized at a 7:30 p. m. meeting at Hammocks District Police Station, 10000 SW 142 Ave., on Wednesday, Oct. 24.