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Special Olympics ActiveStart program finds home in East St. Paul

Posted: September 18, 2019

Special Olympics ActiveStart program finds home in East St. Paul

Saturday mornings will be a lot less hectic this fall for Kris Yunker and Lee Maxwell and their five-year-old son, Taylor, thanks to a new Special Olympics program that's starting in East St. Paul.
Taylor, who has Downs Syndrome, has participated in ActiveStart since he was three years old, but the family had to drive to St. Vital for the hour-long program because there was nothing in their home community of East St. Paul.
But beginning Sept. 21, ActiveStart will be run out of Robert Andrews School and Yunker's friend and fellow East St. Paul resident Desiree Hawcroft is the volunteer coach heading it all up.
Hawcroft, who has volunteered for ActiveStart for the past three years, is thrilled to be part of the first program in East St. Paul.
"First of all I love volunteering in general, it's very rewarding," Hawcroft said.
"I'm really excited to have the program here in East St. Paul."
Hawcroft met Yunker when her mom, Marlene, babysat Taylor.  A friendship developed, and Hawcroft worked with Taylor at the St. Vital Active Start where she was a volunteer.
When Yunker started looking into starting a program in East St. Paul, she wanted Hawcroft involved.
"She was already coaching him in (St. Vital) and we wanted her and she lives here," she said.
"It's something so needed in East St. Paul, she should be a part of it, a founding part of it."
ActiveStart is for children aged 2-6 with an intellectual disability.  The weekly program focuses on motor development and socialization skills and is a full family experience.
Yunker, who is president of the Manitoba Downs Syndrome Society, says ActiveStart is good for the kids and the parents.
"It's a great way to add more support in people's lives," she said.
She credited Hawcroft for being such a dedicated volunteer and said her efforts will benefit people living in East St. Paul and beyond.
"If it wasn't for volunteers like Des this wouldn't happen," she said.
"We're happy to have a location that's close to home ... the have to drive to St. Vital from East St. Paul just doesn't make sense, and there's a whole bunch of areas out here, Stonewall, Stony Mountain, West St. Paul, even Transcona ... as long as they don't have the program available, they can come here."
ActiveStart will take place at Robert Andrews School beginning Saturday, Sept. 21 from 9am to 10am.  It runs for 12 weeks, and then will start again in the new year.
For more information contact Alexis by phone at (204) 925-5631 or email at awolbaum@specialolympics.mb.ca.

Left to right - Kris Yunker, Lee Maxwell, Taylor Maxwell, Marlene Hawcroft and Desiree Hawcroft.  Des and Taylor having a little fun outside Robert Andrews School


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