ENCINO, Calif.—On Nov. 10, Armenian athletes with special needs enjoyed their first basketball practice organized by the Armenian Youth Federation San Fernando Valley “Sardarabad” Chapter. After careful planning and help from the Armenian Autism Outreach Project (AAOP), the “Sardarabad” Chapter created a safe space where children with special needs can experience the thrill of the game.
The AAOP has been instrumental in informing parents about the start of the program and helping recruit members. “Basketball, what can be more typical and universal?” said the members of the AAOP executive board. “It’s all around us, in the schools, in the athletic clubs, in the pros, and it’s perfect. Children can enjoy it individually and also be a member of a team.”
One parent, Taleen Khatchadourian, said that the volunteers’ work goes far beyond teaching the children the game of basketball. “They are creating a bridge in our community between families that otherwise feel secluded,” she said. “And most importantly, they are teaching others that we can work together as a community.”
With four basketball practices under their belt and ten athletes on the team, the chapter is excited to expand the program to provide all Armenian children with special needs the opportunity to participate.
“These kids look forward to practicing and playing basketball with the volunteers every Sunday,” said Hrag Tomassian, an AYF “Sardarabad” member and volunteer “Seeing their overjoyed expressions every week is more than enough to see how we make a difference in their lives.”
For more information please email the chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 818-451-3787.
Founded in 1933, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian American youth organization in the United States, working to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of Armenian-American youth.