YOLO Board fosters community outreach with Special Olympics

Special to The Log
2013 YOLO Board Special Olympics Florida, Walton and Okaloosa Counties.

Since its inception, YOLO Board has strived to give back to the community through establishing relationships and exposing people to the sport of standup paddleboarding (SUP) with local, regional and national outreach efforts.

The company has recently expanded its relationship with Special Olympics Florida and is discovering the new program to be mutually inspiring for the athletes, coaches and the YOLO Board team. Through the relationship, YOLO Board now provides a YOLO Yak and paddle to each county in the state that currently has a SUP registered training program and offers orientations where YOLO Board team members gather with area athletes for one-on-one instruction.

“Through our relationship with YOLO Board, not only have our athletes discovered a passion for standup paddleboarding, but they have also developed true friendships,” said Sherry Wheelock, president and CEO of Special Olympics Florida.

The 501 (c)(3) charitable institution helps people with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and by increasing the public's awareness of their capabilities and needs.

YOLO Board enthusiast and South Florida resident Ruth Holland played a key role in introducing the company to the Special Olympics Florida organization.

“As a career special educator and Special Olympics volunteer, I began thinking about the freedom that standup paddleboarding has given me and wondered how to share that feeling with my students and the Special Olympics athletes I work with,” explained Holland. “If I could gain more confidence as a 50-something teacher, then imagine what paddling would do for my special needs friends and students. I knew that YOLO Board and SUP would not only benefit our athletes, but that they would represent the ‘You Only Live Once’ spirit in all that they did on and off the water.”

YOLO Board currently hosts athlete orientations at YOLO Board Adventures Sandestin for both Special Olympics Florida-Walton County and Special Olympics Florida-Okaloosa County to provide preliminary instructional courses. The orientations are designed to teach the athletes a new skill in a confidence building environment that they can apply to other disciplines and areas of their lives. Coaches enjoy getting to know each athlete and learning more about their personal stories and goals.

“Seeing the pure joy that standing up on the water for the first time can provide was both refreshing and inspirational to me on a personal level,” adds Jeff Archer, co-founder of YOLO Board. “We are honored to be able to work with these athletes and expose them to new experiences and new channels to express their natural abilities. The positive impact of working with the athletes provides our staff is an immeasurable experience.”