Podcast with Laura Fillenwarth, Program Director of non-profit KEEN Chicago, joining Dr. Brian Cole and Steve Kashul to discuss her work to bring physical activity to disabled youth. They discuss how KEEN utilizes one-on-one pairing of athlete to volunteer to make sports, dance, swimming, and yoga accessible to the disabled community, and Dr. Cole’s discusses incidence of injury in this population of athletes.
Imagine a World where ALL youth have equal opportunities for recreation, fitness, and friendship—regardless of their abilities. KEEN’s Mission – Empower youth with disabilities by providing free, non-competitive one-to-one programs of exercise, fitness and fun, led by volunteer coaches. KEEN’s Vision – Foster confidence, self-esteem and community inclusion for youth with disabilities; strengthen communities through education of volunteers; and provide families with respite and a supportive network.
KEEN Chicago is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and is an affiliate of KEEN USA headquartered in Washington, DC. KEEN Chicago’s local Board of Directors is comprised of community leaders, parents and volunteers with the purpose of providing skills and expertise to the organization helping to ensure that it remains true to KEEN’s mission: providing free recreational opportunities to children and young adults with disabilities by pairing them with trained volunteers for fun, noncompetitive activities.
KEEN is modeled on an innovative program established in Oxford, England by Elliott Portnoy, who brought KEEN to the Washington, DC area in 1992. With help from a handful of parents and volunteers, KEEN started as a single program. Now, because of our careful attention to the needs of our athletes and their families, and our volunteers, KEEN serves hundreds of young people with disabilities and offers a wide range of programs and activities.
Laura joined KEEN Chicago in 2018. She has more than ten years experience working with individuals with disabilities and a passion for recreational programming as well as disability rights.
Her previous work experience includes working for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, where she coordinated statewide grassroots advocacy efforts, Jewish Child and Family Services, where she facilitated recreational programming for individuals with disabilities through coordination of respite opportunities, and Toward Maximum Independence, where she provided direct service to individuals dually diagnosed with a developmental disability and mental illness.
Laura also completed a yoga teacher training program in 2015 with the goal making yoga accessible to individuals with diverse abilities. Her sports of choice are tennis, swimming, running, and yoga. She is honored to be a part of the KEEN family.