Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Caroling

I got so busy I didn’t get to blog about one of the most important events of the year – Adventure Fitness caroling and Echo and Karen’s annual after party. Although I’ve only been a part of this Kansas City ritual for about five years, now it just doesn’t seem like the holidays without it.

Adventure Fitness (not sure if that has always been the name or not) is a program that started many years ago. I’m a little hazy on the exact details. What I do know is that it was organized for a number of years by Linda Ray who was the teacher for the visually impaired in the Shawnee Mission school district for decades.

Often kids with visual impairments get left out of sports. They don’t always have the vision or the related hand-eye coordination to play many of the popular competitive sports.

Personally, I remember gym class as my own personal hell on earth. Not only did I spend most of the hour completely clueless about what was happening, but I had to endure the added social humiliations. I was always the absolute last kid to get picked for a team. In fact, the other kids would actually argue about who would be “stuck” with me. And the unstructured environment of gym class meant lots and lots of teasing. I hated it, and I think this is why I’ve found getting in a good physical routine as an adult so hard.

Linda recognized this problem and started arranging events for her students and other blind and visually impaired kids from around the metro area. She planned activities that harkened back to her days at camp and were easier for V.I. kids to do.

Over the years the activities were also used to create lessons in independent living. Christmas, for example, presented an opportunity to bake Christmas cookies. Kids who at home were never allowed near a stove were instructed in how to do so as a blind person – and the spoils of the day given to residents at area nursing homes.

The one activity of the year, however, that you could pretty much promise everyone – current and former – would show up for is the annual caroling event.

We rehearse and then perform at area nursing homes. This year we had a number of local musicians join us.

We do a mix of Christmas music, Hanukkah music and a few other folk favorites. We try to pick music both traditional and off-beat that represents the background of all the people involved. It’s just such a neat experience. I really enjoy learning songs from other cultures.

And then at the end of the day when it’s bitter cold and we’re all chilled to the bone as we watch our breath lingering frozen in the air, we gather at Echo (Linda Ray) and Karen’s house. They always make chile and we all bring something.

I’m not a big Chile fan, but every year I can hardly wait to get to that steaming hot bowl of chile! It tastes sooo good when you’re so cold!

I forgot my camera this year. Drats!

This year I also found myself having to skip every fifth song or so because I was getting all coughy and short of breath.

If anyone knows any visually impaired kids in the Kansas City area, this really is a great program and you can participate in the activities that interest you. It’s tons of fun!

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