This event, referred to as “Christmas in May,” also made up for the canceled December holiday party due to the COVID-19 omicron variant spreading across the city at the time.
During the event, members of the Shield Institute and the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church youth group and the volunteers played soccer, baseball and kickball. Additionally, the Shield Institute was gifted a 50-inch TV by the youth group and each member of the institute received a backpack full of goodies, including sunglasses, bandanas, beach balls, keychains and chapstick.
According to Shield Institute Habilitation Head Specialist Jean Coyle, the interactions at these events are very important to the individuals in the program. The approximately 26 members who attended the sports day event were divided into three groups as they rotated playing soccer, baseball and kickball with the volunteers and youth group members.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church youth group and Shield Institute held these events four times a year, one each season. They had been doing this since 2017. While each seasonal event has become very popular for the organizations, Coyle said the winter ones, held around Christmas, are the most popular ones, with gifts being given to the institute. Past holiday gifts from the youth group to the Shield Institute include iPads, a sound system and stocking its game room.
“The Shield Institute program members talk about these events constantly,” Coyle said. “They really look forward to this. They remember the names of the volunteers and youth group members. Over the years, the individuals of the Shield Institute have formed friendships with the youth group and look forward to playing and joking with them.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of all four events in 2020 and the spring and summer events in 2021, the infection rate in New York City dropped enough for the fall 2021 event to occur before the omicron variant forced the cancellation of the holiday celebration during winter 2021.