Foundation funds sponsor day of fun for those with developmental disabilities

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published October 1, 2023

 Connor Remski steps up to the plate at a free day of fun for those with developmental disabilities at the 5 Star Sports & Training Center in Troy Oct. 1.

Connor Remski steps up to the plate at a free day of fun for those with developmental disabilities at the 5 Star Sports & Training Center in Troy Oct. 1.

Photo by Brendan Losinski


TROY — On Oct. 1, the 5 Star Sports & Training Center in Troy hosted a free day of fun for those with developmental disabilities.

The event was organized by The Arc of Oakland County, an advocacy organization for individuals with developmental disabilities that connects people to resources in the community. They worked in conjunction with Third Circle and HeroMotus to provide outdoor and athletic opportunities for those in attendance.

Dawn Calnen, the executive director of The Arc, believes that such opportunities are crucial.

“This is a day of fun. It’s an adaptive recreation day that includes those with developmental disabilities, but also their siblings and their families. It’s a free event for them to come out and play with no restrictions and adaptations as they need them,” she said. “Oftentimes, people with special needs don’t have opportunities for recreation in the community — especially free recreation. This is a day we can show them such opportunities, both today and at future programs.”

Tom Calnen, the co-owner of 5 Star Sports & Training Center and Dawn’s brother, said they wanted to offer their space for the program to help give a chance to get some athletic fun to people who are often excluded from it.

“We offer any kind of sports training with trained instructors, but also a place people can come for things like adult volleyball and basketball,” he said. “Teams will rent an area here and train during the winter. We also offer some training, which includes Jake’s adaptive training and activities. That is so fulfilling, and there aren’t a lot of chances for those with special needs to get that kind of experience.”

Jake Parker is the owner of HeroMotus, a personal training and therapy business that deals specifically with people with special needs and disabilities. He said that “adaptive recreation” means that they specifically tailor experiences to match the abilities of those taking part in the activities.

“The way we make it adaptive is primarily by letting them play in the space we create for them and having the goal of just letting them do it,” Parker said. “For example, in the back today, we have volleyball going, and instead of the nets being regulation size and height, we bring them down and they just have the goal of getting it over to the other side of the net. We lower the basketball nets so they’re not 12 feet up for the same reason. The goal is not to do what everyone else is doing. The goal is just letting everyone take part and allowing everyone to compete.”

Dawn Calnen said she hopes to host this program every few months. This event was made possible through the Troy Community Foundation after The Arc of Oakland County applied for one of their grants.

“That’s what’s great about this program: Somebody attends the Troy Family Daze festival, and by buying a ticket to the festival you are supporting them, who can then support the community. You’re helping all the individuals here today have a phenomenal day,” she explained. “Without all of us coming together, today would not be possible. I want people to know they are supporting this when they support organizations like the Troy Community Foundation. The community is the reason we can do things like this.”

“The Troy Community Foundation is why this stuff happens,” added Tom Calnen. “I was able to go this year when they brought kids in from different special education schools to try the rides and games, so that was kind of how we got here. I’ve been in the training business for 20 years. We were looking for some different ways to provide for the community at low cost or no cost. The grant from the Troy Community Foundation makes this possible.”

Tom Calnen hopes programs like this will allow for new opportunities for those who didn’t have them in the past, and for better understanding about the nature of sports and recreation for all people.

“We can have a space where we offer a space for those with special needs and those without, and when those who grew up without those kinds of challenges see those who do playing and trying to have fun just like they are, I think that can make a big difference for everyone involved. Everybody sees that everyone is just trying to have fun just like them.”

“I think programs like this are important because, growing up, it was important for me when I was playing sports or taking part in teams or programs, I didn’t see people with disabilities,” added Parker. “They weren’t getting those opportunities or social events. It’s super important that we are offering more things like this so everyone has a place to play, to be free and have fun.”