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Kinetic Kids levels the playing field for children with disabilities

The San Antonio-based organization recently received a national grant.

SAN ANTONIO — Kinetic Kids has long been a staple for the special-needs community in San Antonio. Now, thanks to a grant from sports performance companies Hudl and Gatorade, it's receiving national attention. 

The athletics and enrichment program serving San Antonio’s children with disabilities was selected as one of three programs nationwide to receive Hudl’s “Leveling the Playing Field” grant this past spring. As a winner of the grant, Kinetic Kids will receive three years of access to Hudl’s video software and solutions, in addition to a video documentary series focused on highlighting the selfless individuals responsible for the program's growth. 

In the case of Kinetic Kids, those individuals are local physical therapists Tracey Fontenot and Kacey Wernli, who founded Kinetic Kids in 2001. 

“We saw so many kids that didn’t have the opportunity to compete,” Fontenot said. “They had the desire, they had the dream, but not the opportunity. We saw them in physical therapy and they wanted to do something like their peers were doing.”

So, Fontenot and Wernli took 10 kids out to a local baseball field to play an organized game. What they saw that day sparked a lifechanging program.

“Once we got them out on a field, and saw the confidence and pride and what comes with being part of a team,” remembers Fontenot, "that is really what fueled passion for it.”

Fast forward 21 years, Kinetic Kids now serves about 4,000 children with disabilities annually in the greater San Antonio area.

“I don’t know where our lives would be without Kinetic Kids,” says Teresa Benke, whose daughter, Rachel, has been involved in Kinetic Kids programs for the last 17 years. “For her to get involved and feel included has been amazing.”

The more the athletes have grown at Kinetic Kids, the more their ambitions have evolved.

“Some kids want to go out for eight weeks and enjoy that benefit. Some kids are like, ‘I want to train,’” says Fontenot of Kinetic Kids’ Paralympic training programs. 

San Antonio native Daniel Velasquez joined Kinetic Kids when he was 10 years old. A desire to train eventually pushed him towards track & field, where he competed in the shotput at a world championship level for Team USA. 

Now 26, Velasquez says his accomplishments wouldn't have been possible without Kinetic Kids. 

“Sometimes I think like, what if these programs didn’t exist? I’d be a completely different person,” says Velasquez, who has cerebral palsy. “I meet disabled people all the time who didn’t have the proper guidance growing up of how to deal with you disability and actually deal with facing reality.” 

Thanks to the grant from Hudl and Gatorade, the program that started on a baseball field is now in the national spotlight.

“The access they are providing to kids with sports is pretty incredible,” says Hudl Senior Manager of Video Production Alex Jacobsen, who helped select Kinetic Kids out of a pool of hundreds of applicants. “It’s a service that should be available across the country and it’s hard to find.” 

Funded by donations and corporate sponsors, Kinetic Kids has leveled the field for its athletes. More importantly, it’s leveled up the possibilities for children with disabilities.

“These guys aren't just building elite-level athletes, but they’re building productive members of society,” sums up Velasquez. “I can’t stress enough how much of a personality-builder this is for kids, as far as pushing them in the right direction.” 

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