I received the video embedded below a few weeks ago, just before I was leaving on vacation. I have not had the opportunity to post it until now. It is the uplifting story of the Sporting KC Victory Project. Sporting KC is the Kansas City Professional Soccer team, and the Victory Project is an outreach program that helps children facing health and disability challenges. I encourage you to take just a few minutes out of your busy day to watch this video.
You will see this particular episode features 14 year old Rachel Mast, and follows her through several days of VIP treatment with the team, both at practices and during a game. Rachel has Down syndrome, and is the daughter of Jonathan and Jawanda Mast of Olathe, KS. Some of you may know Jonathan from his role as Director of Social Media for Sedgwick.
Programs such as this are extremely important for both the people touched by them and the local communities in which they live. They give the opportunity to both improve lives through financial assistance, or in Rachel's case, to give a young girl facing unique challenges a special memory that will last a lifetime. Still, as cool as the Sporting KC Victory Project is, it pales in comparison to the other program Rachel was in that day; in fact, one she is in every day of her life.
That program, administered by a loving and determined mother and father, is dedicated to making sure life gives this young girl every opportunity she can handle. It is designed to make sure the world does not see her as a disabled child in need of accommodation, but rather as a capable young woman who strives to succeed in spite of her impairment.
I had the good fortune earlier this year to chat with Jonathan about his daughter. He and his wife have committed themselves to mainstreaming Rachel in each possible facet of life, and to make sure she has every educational and social opportunity she deserves. It is not always easy. Schools seem compelled to sideline students like Rachel, classifying them under the banner of Special Education; thereby negating any real possibility of true educational development. They have fought that trend and kept her in the mainstream, with very positive results.
Socially they also struggle, as Rachel's mother Jawanda passionately details in her blog, The Sassy Southern Gal, dedicated to Rachel and the challenges of Down syndrome. Although this life presents obstacles that other families do not face, they continue to press to open doors and educate others, freeing their daughter from the shackles of a condition that others would consider disabling.
And that is the key. Loving parents and an amazing support network that can make the difference between a life of disability and a life well lived. And it is happening right here, in our own back yard, at the Mast house (where Rachel turned 15 last week).
That is why, as impressive as the Sporting KC Victory Project is, it was only the second coolest program of the day. The other concurrent program with determined and caring parents had already performed the heavy lifting, and laid the foundation to make young Rachel a victor. Now that is a pretty cool program, indeed.
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