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Washington Voices

WAVE rises to challenge

Program builds sports skills, friendships

WAVE began as a ripple.

The acronym stands for Wild Activities and Valuable Events, a sports and social group for people with special needs in the West Plains area.

Since the group formed last September, activities have included lake fishing, an evening swim at Hagelin Park pool and outdoor games. Planned activities include creation of a softball team and a bowling team for players as young as 8.

“We’re hoping to see this grow and thrive, to gain power like a wave and become a well-run program with good community participation,” said Aubra Pollack, a special education teacher at Cheney High School and WAVE organizer.

WAVE began when Pollack overheard parents talking about a similar program in Spokane. Many of her high school students attended the Spokane program and Cheney needed a program of its own, organizers said.

With Pollack’s help, and the support of the City of Cheney Parks and Recreation Department, that early ripple started to build into something larger.

More than 30 adults in Cheney have special needs, Pollack said.

Parks department employee Lavertta Lawrence, who manages WAVE, said as the city of Cheney grows, so will the need for WAVE.

“For the size of Cheney I would say (the special needs population) is fairly large and as they graduate they’re continuing to live in West Plains area,” she said.

Lawrence said she’s always impressed with how much the participants take on. In addition to managing WAVE, Lawrence coaches a Special Olympics team for the parks department.

About 15 to 20 of WAVE’s participants also participate in the Special Olympics, she said.

“They are phenomenal. Many of them not only go to school and work, but they come out and they practice with Special Olympics and then go and have some fun with WAVE,” Lawrence said.

Four or five volunteers usually help Lawrence with WAVE, including her two daughters and students from Eastern Washington University’s recreation department.

Lawrence said she can always use more help, and the job comes with benefits.

“It’s a rewarding experience, you get to meet people who enjoy life, who enjoy being active and trying new experiences,” she said.

The program allows special needs people to develop their social and physical skills outside of school special education programs, WAVE organizers said.

WAVE is open to anyone older than 13.

Lawrence said she looks forward to every new event with the WAVE crew.

“These guys are just wonderful,” said Lawrence. “They’re fun, they’re always excited to see you and there’s a lot of reward in that. I go home very, very joyful.”

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