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Kids Enjoy Exercise Then & Now

Rachel Howlett was there at the beginning in 1992 when KEEN York first started!


They are now working as a Careers Consultant in the Careers Department of the University of York.

I was delighted to hear of this society’s nomination for the Society of the Year award, and to learn how it is growing and developing.

When I was studying for my teacher training qualification in 1992 – 93 at the University of
York, a couple of my colleagues on the course were recently graduated from Oxford
University. They had been involved with KEEN there, and built on their experiences to create
a new society at York. They liaised with special schools and community groups to gain some
interest from local families, and recruited the first cohort of student volunteers – mainly
teacher trainees, including me.

The ‘Kids’ were quite a wide range of ages, and included young adults with a variety of
conditions affecting their physical and intellectual development. One of these young people
will always stand out for me. His name is Danny and he is autistic.

The sessions always followed the same routine, with exercises in pairs to build up trust and
strength, and finishing with everyone sitting in a circle holding hands. On the count, we
would all pull together to get us up to a standing position.

Now, Danny always had a volunteer assigned to him, and he would walk around the sports
hall, simply patting the walls and making non-verbal noises. When I worked with him, I
would be near him, giving him encouragement and using his name a lot.

On the last session of the year, a sort of reverent hush fell upon the room and gradually we
realised that Danny was coming to join us in the circle for the final exercise. There was a real
sense of excitement and pride when he joined hands and pulled up with the rest of us. For
me, it really demonstrated the transforming power that KEEN has.

Congratulations on achieving your award. I congratulate you on the great contribution you
are making to children’s lives, and in return to your own! I wish you and KEEN continued
success for years to come.

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