Bustin’ Barriers is a non-profit organization in Portland, Oregon, that offers children with special-needs the opportunity to break down hurdles through sports and enrichment activities. The program started out in 2012 as a week-long camp program teaching basketball skills to children with special needs.
The program was a labor of love for Andrew Yoshihara, a basketball coach who founded the program after volunteering for an adapted PE class at Wilson High School.
“Growing up as a person of color, I know what it’s like to have people treat you differently because of the color of your skin or because you might not look like somebody else,”
he says. He found that students with special-needs have limited access to athletic opportunities outside of adaptive PE classes, so he started Bustin’ Buckets, a week-long basketball camp at Jackson Middle School. The program was a huge success, leading to two more sessions, which gradually expanded into activities other than basketball. The students at the third camp put on a talent show, which, for some, was their first time performing on stage. Many parents felt that Bustin’ Buckets failed to capture the full scope of activities offered to the children, so the name was changed to Bustin’ Barriers.
The camp program has expanded into four weeks, with an emphasis on a different sport each week. Students learn and practice their skills in basketball, soccer, tee ball/softball, and kickball, along with participating in music and art enrichment activities.
The benefits of participation in organized sports are well-documented, and Yoshihara believes that all children should have access to athletic programs.
“It helps with the rest of your life, you know, you may play on a basketball team for a few years, but it’s helping you learn how to communicate with people, how to work with people.”
When recent budget cuts led to the elimination of the Portland Public School’s adaptive PE basketball tournament, Bustin’ Barriers stepped in to fill the void. Seventy students had the opportunity to showcase their skills. Yoshihara recruited local high school students to do the coaching and officiating at the tournament.
Dawn DeAno, whose son participated in the program, says,
“For me Bustin’ Barriers is all about relationship building. The coaches, led by Andrew Yoshihara, spent time getting to know, care for and appreciate the kids. My son and I were met at the door with smiles and enthusiasm by everyone. The atmosphere was laid-back, non-competitive, supportive, inclusive and respectful. My son, who was not a big basketball fan, wants to come back! Thank you for providing a loving place for our kids to explore, trust and grow!”
Bustin’ Barriers is a sponsored program of Neighborhood House, Inc., a respected social service organization in Portland. This relationship allows Bustin’ Barriers to write grants and receive tax-deductible donations, as they look forward to expanding their program in the future.
For more information about Bustin’ Barriers, see their website at www.bustinbarriers.org, or call 508-869-7112.