DANVERS — Riverside School in Danvers will host a family fundraising day Saturday to support Inclyousion Sports, a nonprofit organization that empowers children of all abilities to be active and have fun.
Kids can play sports, hit the dunk tank and grab a bite to eat from Melt, a local food truck, from 4-6pm on Saturday. More than 30 companies have donated gift cards, museum passes, Red Sox tickets and other exciting prizes to be won during the raffle.
A balloon artist and DJ along with local vendors will also be present at the field day. Although the event is free, attendees are encouraged to donate to the new Inclyousion gym, which is opening at Mills 58 on Pulaski Street in Peabody this fall.
“We’re trying to build a safe community where families can come and not worry about being judged by other families,” said founder and president Greg Perkins. “Everyone is here to learn the sport, have fun and make friends.”
Inclyousion launched last September in partnership with Danvers Recreation.
Since then, the organization has introduced the sport to 200 children ages 18 months to 10 years in nearly a dozen communities across the state.
The program offers classes with trained coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, tennis and track and field.
Perkins is a Danvers resident and certified behavior analyst who has worked with children with autism and other diagnoses for 14 years. He wanted to use his skills to help kids find a sport they love in a non-competitive environment — especially after his son couldn’t make a typical sports team last spring, added his wife, Kristen Perkins.
“We now have a typically disabled child who is almost 5 years old, but when we tried to enroll him in a local soccer program, he was shy, very nervous, and had a very hard time jumping into a group of 20 kids he didn’t know, with inexperienced coaches, so it was a really negative experience for us,” she said.
Inclyousion aims to change that for her son and other children. The classes are open to all children and cost half the cost of competitive programs, said Kristen Perkins, who is also vice chair of the Danvers Human Rights and Inclusion Committee.
Every four weeks, the program changes the sport it focuses on and teaches kids the basic skills of the game. Class sizes are limited to eight kids per two coaches to give kids the individualized experience they need to truly learn about the sport.
“When a kid finds out they really like a sport like baseball, they can sign up for a team,” Kristen Perkins said. “Parents know that their child has already been exposed to the basics and that they know what to expect, and that’s nice because the way we teach, kids of any ability level, any experience level can show up and play and let’s learn together.”
The organization has used the local gym and field to host its programs since its inception. But once renovations to the new gym at Mills 58 are complete, Inclyousion will have dedicated spaces for its programs, equipment, offices and events like birthday parties.
The most important thing is that it will be a place where children can reveal their potential.
“That’s all I wanted to do. I want to remove barriers and understand why a child might be on the outside,” said Greg Perkins. “Why can’t this child play sports? Language too complex, sensory needs too strong? Is the task too difficult?
“For me, it’s about finding that piece of the puzzle,” he continued. “Every day can be a little different for children. Every child will learn a little differently, and I want to see that connection.”
For more information about Inclyousion Sports, visit https://incliousionsports.com/.