The Cambridge Program began over 35 years ago and though it has carried various names throughout the years, it has always provided high quality programming for physically and mentally challenged individuals.
Cambridge program participants range from as young as 8 years old to as old as 70 years old, with many coming from low-income households. The program also accepts residents from neighboring communities to participate in their Special Olympic training programs and events.
The program operates out of the Russell Youth Center on Huron Ave in Cambridge. With a robust sports element, participants compete at state and sometimes national levels through the Special Olympics in swimming, weightlifting, basketball, tennis, volleyball, and basketball. Recently, the Cambridge Warriors Basketball Team won the Massachusetts State Championship, experiencing great success at the 2018 Special Olympics.
Developing Life Skills
Off the court the program provides a platform to develop life skills and even touts a job readiness program. This year the job readiness program was able to prepare 30 participants for the workforce and supported several in jobs they were able to secure while enrolled in the program.
There are programs four days a week; health and fitness on Mondays and Wednesdays; Adult Bowling on Tuesdays; and an extended Saturday window with an assortment of activities. Cambridge Program participants also may train and compete throughout the year in Massachusetts Special Olympics events.
The Special Olympics are a very rewarding activity for athletes and their families and allow members of the Cambridge Program to interact with people across the state of Massachusetts. Camp Rainbow, a summer camp which operates Monday through Friday for seven weeks in July and August, is another great opportunity for individuals ages 6 and older with special needs to meet peers and engage in fun activities.
The Cambridge Program also focuses heavily on the arts. Each year the program puts on a large production. This year participants designed sets, sewed costumes, memorized lines, and produced Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. This production blended film and live action theatre to ensure every participant contributed to the overall success of the production and lived up to the Program’s mission.
The goal of the Cambridge Program is to help create an inclusive and empathetic community through programs and activities that promote health and fitness, care, respect, and understanding differences. All programs are moderately priced, with two annual fundraisers that help to keep the costs low.
The Cambridge Program’s staff is made up of a variety of special educators, teachers, a health care consultant, counselors, youth workers, college students, and several volunteers. Director David Tynes has been involved in the Special Olympics since a young age, which has ultimately led him to the Cambridge Program where he also serves as a coach for the various sports activities that participants engage in weekly.
Tynes said, “The motto of our program is effort is everything. And what we try to strive to do is to help turn disabilities into capabilities.” The program provides quality activities that are geared to promote self-esteem, encourage social interaction, and increase physical well-being.