Over the past many years, we’ve chronicled the amazing work of Project Awareness and Special Sports (PAASS) and their award-winning collaboration on programs for children with special needs with Mill Valley Recreation. That work has spanned its multi-faceted Adaptive Needs Program and the honors they’ve garnered.
Now they’ve earned even more recognition, this time from KPIX’s Jefferson Awards, which honor “quiet heroes” in Bay Area communities. Longtime Mill Valley family Janet Miller and Dan Barbee and their son Tyler initially founded the Challenger League in 2009 with the goal to give kids with different abilities like their son Connor Barbee, who is autistic, the same chance as other kids to participate in organized baseball by pairing them with “buddies” – primarily high school and middle school athletes – to assist them.
The program was a huge hit, and evolved into PAASS in 2014, working with Mill Valley Recreation to consistently add a variety of mediums, from dance and kid’s cooking to a roster of programs that includes yoga, clay, ceramics and pottery, martial arts, strength and conditioning and swimming, among others.
In honoring Miller and her family, KPIX reporter Sharon Chin writes, “Thanks to a Mill Valley woman, thousands of people with physical and developmental disabilities are no longer sitting on the sidelines. Instead, they are in the game.”
In recent years, Conor Barbee was hired by Mill Valley Recreation through its “Work Training Experience” program run by local nonprofit Integrated Community Services (ICS). Barbee plays a number of roles at the center, including providing an attention to detail in cleaning equipment in the fitness facility, for instance, that is beyond reproach. His story has been lauded as a triumph of the human spirit and Marin’s ability to lift each other up. CHECK OUT THE VIDEO HERE.
Miller also created It Takes a Village, a partnership with the Mill Valley School District to build support for special needs students. “It’s having people acknowledge the amazing gifts and strengths that people with disabilities have to offer, and I absolutely want to change that dialogue,” Miller Told KPIX.
Check out the video honoring PAASS: