Danish organization helps children with needs grow physically and mentally

By Olivia Yderholm

It’s Tuesday afternoon and the clock has just struck 4.30pm. The last ray of the sun has just passed the asphalt track, which is slowly being conquered by 12 kids in sports gear. They all greet with their elbows and a catching smile – it is clear that have missed each other and look forward to today’s training.

“They simply get better mental and physical health. What they experience is a community, being missed by someone, which should be a human right.” tells Trine Ravn, founder and social leader of ‘Special Sport’, with a warm smile.

Trine Ravn created ‘Special Sport’ in 2014 because, as the mother of Simon with Down Syndrome, she wanted a place for her son to go and cultivate his interests and be part of a sport community. Today, the organization houses a community of 16 different sports activities, which can be practiced in different clubs in Denmark

Joy of activities and a healthy association with community activities are a key reason why children and young people’s appetite for activities is nurtured throughout life. It is therefore necessary to get all children into community activities – even children with needs.

“There are fewer than 10% of children with special disabilities who start sport by themselves, so there are many who need help to get started.” tells Trine Ravn.

Due to this ‘Special Sport’ has been introduced by leading activity clubs to join the initiative in creating a team for children, who do not always fit into a ‘normal’ team. One of these clubs is Avarta in Hvidovre, just outside Copenhagen. Yet much of the work is placed in the families, Trine Ravn expresses: 

“It is the case that the sport of disability has remained unchanged over the last 10 years, no more children have come, despite the fact that a massive effort has been made to get more sports associations involved.”

A large part of ‘Special Sports’ work is about communication and to help the parents to understand that there is room for all kinds of children – including theirs. 

“There are some barriers in the families, many children with need have experienced many defeats in the past. It is a real concern for the parents if the children and the club can handle it and if it will be a successful experience for the children.”

Volunteering and community activities are often regarded as central and positive elements in Danish society because they contribute to children learning about community, cooperation, independence, and equality. Therefore, it is so important to get all kinds of children into community activities, Trine Ravn says: 

“It means both something physical for the children, but completely welcoming, if you look at the research in the field, then in addition to being part of a community you become less lonely, being exposed to this, you simply become better at interacting with other people, outside of the sport too.” 

Community activities also play a major role in the development of an active civil society and in promoting the mixing of people from different parts of society. According to Trine Ravn. 

“Children become more closely linked to the job market, they live more independently, they have fewer lifestyle problems and can live 10-15 years longer if they have an active role within the community.”