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🧩 LINK Club and MAS Program Provide Opportunities Special Needs Community All Year Long🧩

by Roberto Echeverri

The spring has been an eventful season for members of the LINK club and the Mas program. With events ranging from sports clinics to hosting a prom, the programs are providing enjoyable experiences for individuals with disabilities.

Credits: Mas Program Instagram
WOW center member enjoys his time on the field. Photo Credit: Mrs. Gonzalez-Rojas

Kick it for WOW

On Saturday, March 9, the Columbus LINK Club along with over a hundred other volunteers participated in the annual Kickball game with the WOW Center.

Founded in 1972, The WOW Center is a program where individuals with developmental disabilities can access quality programs that improve their daily independent living skills. The program offers support, guidance and encouragement to these adults in order to help them become more independent.

One of their main goals is to "Make Miami More Inclusive." In other words, they want to Miami a more disability-friendly community.

Kick It For WOW Teamwork!!!

Photo Credits: Mrs. Jeannette Gonzalez-Rojas

The Kick It For WOW event is a great example of their inclusion initiative. The kickball teams were made up of four to five individuals and as well as students from different high schools around Miami besides Columbus such as Carrollton, Saint Brendan, True North Academy and other schools.

The event was not only impactful for the members of the WOW Center but for the volunteers as well.

"This event was very educational and I was able to interact and learn about different people that I would never have had to chance to meet without this experience," said volunteer Freshman Owen VanDerGraaf.

Kick It For WOW Columbus Team Volunteers pose for a picture after the event. Photo Credits: Mrs. Jeannette Gonzalez Rojas

Gear Up For Autism

Special Needs Students Enjoying At Gear Up For Autism Photo Credits: MAS Program Instagram

On Sunday, April 21, volunteers participated in a special event hosted at Columbus. The 5th Annual Gear Up for Autism, hosted by the MAS Program Alumni Diego Ramos, allowed special needs students to be a part of sports activities.

Ramos' main inspiration to begin this project began in his sophomore year at Columbus with his best friend - Sebastian Ortiz, who passed away before seeing their dream project fulfilled.

Both Diego and Sebastian had opportunities to play sports, and they

wanted to give children with autism an opportunity to experience the gift of athletics. Diego's brother has autism, so he always understood the difficulties families faced financially to support therapies and educational support.

A few months after coming up with their idea to help, Sebastian was diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric cancer, and died 14 months later. After this, Diego was determined to start an event in Sebastian's honor- Gear Up For Autism. This event began five years ago, and it realizes the dreams of two best friends who wanted to provide an opportunity to individuals deprived of these experiences.

Volunteer Having Fun At Gear Up For Autism Photo Credits: MAS Program Instagram

At the end of this event, each participant left with a canvas of art created by them, a sports ball of their choice and a new pair of running shoes- all in honor of Sebastian.

Diego Ramos '18 At Gear Up For Autism Photo Credits: MAS Program Instagram

Night of the Stars

On Saturday, April 27th, Columbus hosted over 100 teens and adults with special needs and their families. This event hosted by the LINK Club at Columbus, had volunteers from Carrollton, Saint Brendan and many other schools as well.

The stars having a blast at La Hora Loca. Photo Credit: Brother Eladio Gonzalez

This event allowed for the Stars to be able to experience what a prom is, bringing unity to both communities. 

The event commenced with a red carpet entrance that celebrated each individual's uniqueness. Other exciting events included La Hora Loca, and the 360 video booth and photo station.

Stars enjoy a night of fun with volunteers on the red carpet (top) and La Hora Loca (bottom) Photo Credits: Brother Eladio Gonzalez

The families of the Stars were able to have dinner and celebrate with their children, allowing them to see their children having a great time. This opportunity enabled the stars to shine, and promoted understanding for the individuals despite their disabilities.

With each event, the LINK club and Columbus community help close the gap between the special needs community and the activities they may miss out on.

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