Bonds that Serve: the Special Olympics

Published: July 27, 2011

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Since 2001, Kelli Hyland has been a faithful employee of Bridgewell and is now working as a program supervisor, overseeing several different aspects of the organization’s community. A friend, counselor, and activities coordinator, Hyland holds many roles in her career. In 2003, she added one more to the list by revitalizing Bridgewell’s involvement with the Special Olympics. Hyland claims that it all came from a love of her residents and a desire to provide more opportunities for them.

“I’ve been involved in sports my whole life, so it’s always been a natural part of my day to day life,” said Hyland. “I therefore had no doubt that I wanted to give the same experience for the people I work with.”

Coach Kelli (left) prepares the team ready for practice with different stretches and warm ups.

Today, what started as an aspiration has grown into a reality. Over the past eight years, Bridgewell has established two basketball teams in the winter season and a track field team, currently made up of 68 residents. With more athletes than ever, Bridgewell’s current track and field team also boasts the most involvement from different residences. Residents are not only involved as athletes, but as peer coaches, who work alongside the coaches to encourage their friends.

“I like being a coach because it lets me help other people who aren’t as fortunate as me,” says Erica, a current Bridgewell resident.

The team has garnered great support and encouragement from the local community. Before 2006, practices were only held in a park. Since then, however, they have gained the help of Lynnfield athletic director, Bill Adams, who has offered Bridgewell used of the fields during any free hours. They have also made a presence in the Special Olympics community.

“Bridgewell has consistently been a positive presence in our organization, both on and off the court.” says Sean Canty, the local Special Olympics branch director, “They’ve been great supporters who have a lot of fun while being strongly involved in every fundraiser”

So now, instead of going home at the end of her workday, Hyland puts on her tracksuit and heads over to practice to volunteer as the head coach.  With the help of other devoted staff members, Hyland and crew work to build deeper relationships with their residents as well as foster a love for “the game.” Each coach must go through a certification process in order to serve on the team.

“I couldn’t do it without the core group of six employees that have consistently helped me,” Hyland says. “We’ve all made a promise to serve a common goal and that’s something very important and unique.”

And all that hard work and dedication has paid off with memorable moments that will stay with many of the residents. One of Hyland’s favorite memories was in 2007, when Bridgewell’s basketball team was given the opportunity to play during halftime at a Boston Celtics game. She recalled the look of satisfaction on each resident’s face as they noticed themselves on the Jumbo-tron.

“Seeing the face on one of my athletes when they know that they’ve accomplished something is what makes everything worth it.”

And it’s that glimmer of inspiration and encouragement that keeps Hyland devoted to her team members, with no intentions of stopping any time soon.

“This is the most rewarding job I could ask for,” said Hyland. “I’ve volunteered my time to these teams for eight years and I will continue to volunteer every year after.”

This article was written by Lindsay de Villiers


Lindsay interned at Bridgewell in the spring while she completed her senior semester at Gordon College. Read more about Lindsay by clicking here.