2022 Grants Challenge

Free Fitness Programs for Disabled Youth

KEEN’s mission is to provide fitness and recreation programs to youth with disabilities – at no cost to the participant. By pairing our athletes 1:1 with a trained volunteer, KEEN is able to support those with even the most severe and profound challenges. Our programs provide respite & resources to families, volunteer training for the community, and the opportunity for youth with disabilities to have fitness, fun and friendship at their level, celebrating their abilities.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Green Space, Park Access, and Trees

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

West LA

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

KEEN is seeking to address the issue of kids with disabilities being unable to access activities appropriate for their abilities, which often results in this population leading isolated, sedentary lives. This is a crucial issue for children in general and with this group even moreso. Kids diagnosed with a disability is on the rise and recognition of youth with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and ADHD is at the forefront; 60% of KEEN participants have a diagnosis of ASD. Additionally, 20% of LA's youth has a diagnosis of a disability in general. Because people with disabilities are less active, they are 38% more likely to be obese than their counterparts. This health risk can lead to obesity-related secondary conditions and imposes significant personal and economic hardship on families. Among kids with physical disabilities, 39% report never exercising at all. Underserved communities experience even more difficulties due to financial constraints, lack of technology and language barriers.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

KEEN works to rectify all of the crucial issues identified above by providing free fitness programs that meet children at their level. By pairing KEEN athletes 1:1 with a trained volunteer, KEEN is able to support those with even the most profound challenges. Our programs provide respite & resources to families, volunteer training for the community, & the opportunity for youth with disabilities to have fitness, fun & friendship at their level, celebrating their abilities. In order to address the needs of the most marginalized communities, KEEN primarily serves families from East, Central and South Los Angeles, & sessions take place primarily in Black and Brown neighborhoods such as Echo Park and Elysian park - two regions which report 72% non-white residency. Overall, more than 70% of KEEN’s participants identify as Hispanic and African American, and over 90% live in neighborhoods defined as “below median income”. Additionally, KEEN’s messaging is in English and Spanish. Spanish speaking staff and volunteer coaches are present at every program session, ensuring athletes are comfortable working with their coaches in a familiar environment. KEEN volunteers ("coaches") come from diverse backgrounds and are of every age group. Participating in KEEN programs offers a chance to gain first-hand experience with people with special needs generating a greater understanding of the unique abilities they have as well as the many challenges they face.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Through swim, gymnastics, tennis and basketball as well as the KEEN Caretakers & Healthy Eating programs, KEEN will contribute to an overall healthier, less isolated, more athletic lifestyle & improved socialization for LA's youth with disabilities. KEEN ensures that its athletes will have at least 8 opportunities monthly to be active & socialize with volunteer “coaches” & peers. The KEEN Caretakers initiative offers resources to overstretched families. With your support: 1. KEEN athletes will have access to safe, inclusive spaces to play. 2. Kids will gain relevant life and social skills by creating friendships and acquiring role models from a diverse group of volunteers of all ages. 3. Families will be better equipped to support their children through KEEN’s bilingual programming. These programs include Financial Education, IEP advocacy, & parent Zumba & Yoga. KEEN will reach 50+ children weekly through its programming, leading to a healthier, happier population of disabled youth.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

KEEN LA's programming has been in existance for ten years; and so our proposal is to continue and expand our current program. KEEN tracks the success of our projects both quantitatively and qualitatively to measure impact. We monitor athlete and volunteer attendance as well as the participation levels of the athletes at each session. KEEN LA also conducts annual parent and volunteer effectiveness surveys, which measure the demographics, socio-economics, program quality, and athlete/volunteer impact. The collected data drives both outreach and programming. Measurable outcomes for KEEN LA include: keeping our programs at no cost, recruiting new consistent athletes into the program, increasing the number and variety of program offerings, and increasing the number of returning volunteer coaches.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 300

Indirect Impact: 1,000