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Husband and Wife Duo’s Virtual Circle of Support

Husband and Wife Duo’s Virtual Circle of Support
Husband and wife, Jim and Loretta Davis, joined the ranks of virtual physical activity programmers with limited technical know-how and no idea of the time it required.
Not deterred, the Brock Niagara Penguins duo leaned into the needs of fellow club members and their own passion for parasport to guide them in creating something remarkable.

Both are graduates of Niagara College’s Educational Assistant program and are applying their education to Penguins programming. Loretta and Jim, 41 and 43 years old respectively, have translated their love for wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, boccia and handcycling into coaching and instructor positions with the Penguins – Loretta, the club’s NCCP-certified (National Certified Coaching Program) boccia coach and Jim, its wheelchair basketball coach and handcycling instructor.

In response to the shut-down of Penguins programming over the last two years, Loretta assumed a new position of virtual coordinator with the Niagara club as well. Two years ago, at the very onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Brock Niagara Penguins announced the disappointing news that the club was canceling its programming of course. But Penguins leaders quickly realized that something was needed to replace the programming void for the sake of its athletes’ physical and mental health.

“A group of us got together to brainstorm and create a plan of action to keep our team together through this difficult time,” Loretta remembers. “The first thing we did was create a private Facebook group as a safe environment where our athletes, coaches and volunteers could interact with one another. We created weekly challenges called Motivational Mondays where we encouraged each other to perform different workouts, acts of kindness and some fun physical activities.”
Husband and Wife Duo’s Virtual Circle of Support
The group, as Loretta points out, offered a sense of community that the Penguins have always provided for its athletes. As the spring of 2020 turned to summer, Loretta and Jim were hosting bi-weekly social calls that incorporated some fun games, but primarily gave athletes a chance to socialize. This time gave athletes the opportunity to talk about things they were struggling with during the pandemic. “We quickly learned that our sessions were good not just as an outlet for physical activity, but to voice fears and concerns and frustrations.”

“One-hour sessions really don’t end after 60 minutes,” Loretta adds. “And we realized how important it was to our athletes to have someone like Jim and me to talk to who have lived experience in the disability community.” As time marched on, the virtual duo added Flashback Fridays to conjure some fun memories among the group to keep everyone’s spirits up. It was only when it became apparent that the fall of 2020 was not going to allow the club to get back to in-person sessions that a group of club leaders decided to create virtual programming, with an ambitious plan of three times a week.

Monday nights became Get Active night for younger athletes and those who like to do low-impact workouts like yoga, dance and fitness. Wednesday evenings offered Social Time with activities such as game night, paint and cook nights. “Saturday is our most intense workout for our sitting volleyball, basketball, and sledge hockey athletes,” says Loretta. “We do CrossFit workouts to keep up on training. And thanks to the Ontario Cerebral Palsy Sports Association and Boccia Canada for providing at-home boccia kits, we’ve been able to offer a virtual program for boccia athletes every other Friday.”

The success of the Davis’s virtual programming captured the attention of other parasport clubs in the province. “One thing that I’m particularly proud of is having athletes from other organizations and clubs join us from outside of our Niagara Region,” shares Jim.

The impact of the Penguins’ virtual programming has given athletes a variety of opportunities to stay active and connected through difficult times. “We know that virtual programming is not as much fun as in-person, but staying connected is so important,” Jim maintains. “We’ve made the commitment that we will stick with virtual programming until all of our in-person programs are back up and running consistently,” promises Loretta. “Until then, there will always be a virtual program for people. No one is going to be left behind.”

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