The American poet Susan Polic Schutz once said, “Go beyond yourself and reach out to other people with a sincere love, respect, caring, and understanding of their needs.” Her quote demonstrates what the members of CCA S4EA club strive to be.
Three years ago, Olivia Yang and several other CCA freshmen founded S4EA club. This club helps exceptional athletes through coaching, tournaments, sports camps, fund raising, and other community activities. The club partners with a nonprofit organization, Sports for Exceptional Athletes, to assist twenty-four sports and serve San Diego County athletes with developmental disabilities.
Many exceptional athletes suffer from detrimental illnesses, such as heart defects, blood disorders, and immune system problems. Physical exercise is an important step towards improving their health and helping to boost their self-esteem and confidence. “The S4EA program gives the athletes an opportunity to discover their talents through sports and derive a real sense of personal achievement. We want to become friends with them and inspire them to participate in practices and tournaments," explained Olivia Yang, who’ve won two Presidential Service Award Gold Medals. She also described the “great progress” she’s seen “being made both physically and mentally throughout five years of coaching special athletes in figure skating.”
Promoting physical health is not the only goal for the club. They continuously try to improve the athletes’ social skills as well. One of the board members, Olivia Lam, recounted that "In the beginning, we realized that some of the athletes had the mentality that sports were strictly a win or lose process.” Lam has had first-hand experience in bringing teams together, helping them to see that good sportsmanship is a big factor in sports. "I’m proud of the athletes and teams. Being able to see them shake each other’s hands and be supportive of each other is very heartwarming to me.” She’s also taken many high quality photos, illustrating the memories of S4EA, that the club uses in its online galleries.
Among the many community events that the club holds, sports camp is one of the most enjoyable to both the athletes and coaches. Hannah Choi recalled that "the sports camp was truly a wonderful experience. I was put in charge of four campers, and after just three days, I felt like I truly bonded with them. The sports camp was fun, and it also challenged me to be patient and motivate the campers to join the activities, to the best of my abilities.” She talked about how one of her campers, who was too scared to rock climbing, eventually climbed to the top, after Hannah patiently showed her the basic techniques. “I was very proud of her achievement,” stated Hannah. Choi’s devotion towards the volunteering services has earned her a Presidential Service Award Silver Medal.
Another diligent member, Danny Applebaum, expresses that S4EA Club “was really eye-opening. I feel like we live in a bubble here and never get to see people who need more assistance than we do. Seeing athletes who have tougher circumstances than I, and then overcoming those circumstances, is inspiring to me. I feel like every event when I see athletes actively participating is inspiring. They could be passive and give up but with their perseverance, it’s really special.” He also added, “A big challenge I’ve found when volunteering is knowing where to be and what to do. I always feel inclined to help even when people don’t ask directly, so I tend to jump to more tasks rather than staying put.” Danny has put a lot of effort to serve the special athletes, and he was elected Vice President of the club in 2019.
During three years of volunteering services, more than a hundred CCA students participated in different community services. The club has helped athletes in track, floor hockey, golf, basketball, swimming, skating, and many other sports. They’ve continued to help athletes at Francis Parker School, Sweetwater Union High School, West Hills High School, Imperial Beach, Balboa Park, North County, Ramona, and other regions of San Diego. S4EA Club has raised over $800 of donation to Sports for Exceptional Athletes and bought TShirts for the club members from its Bake Sale profit. Recently, S4EA club extended their service to neighboring schools. The club has given a presentation to Carmel Valley Middle School at back to school night, bringing in many phone calls from parents who were interested about S4EA’s program. In addition, it has also reached out to Torrey Hill School and is going to help out the Jog-a-Thon next March as well as the field day next June at Del Mar Heights School and Carmel Del Mar School. In January 2019, the club was elected the Club of the Month, having all their outstanding work recognized.
S4EA club works hard to give back to the community. Through their experiences of working with exceptional athletes, they’ve learned how to serve others with love, respet, care and understanding. Olivia Yang says, ”We get a lot of support from Sports for Exceptional Athletes. Our club members are continuously going beyond themselves and will continue to in the future.”