Butler County Profile: Holly Vincent, An Able Bodied Helper
I walked into Kummer Little Recreation Center in Bowling Green to interview Butler County native, Holly Vincent, and one of the first things she tells me is, “You need to know that I am not special just because I help special needs people, anyone can work with them if they are willing to be open minded and devoted to helping others.”
As we talk, Michael Carter, age 37, sits behind us on the computer with his dog Flare next to him while he makes out his schedule for his upcoming fitness classes that he teaches. Michael has Ataxia which is a condition that affects the part of the nervous system that’s in charge of muscle movement, and balance. I have to think about that for a minute before it registers that a special needs person with physical problems is coaching people on how to get in better physical shape. My education has begun.
Kummer Little is just one of the many places that Holly hangs her hats in her capacity as Special Populations Coordinator. Unofficially she more like a dorm mom, mentor, friend, instructor, part time therapist, and a solid shoulder to lean on in troubled times.
What made you start doing this?
At a young age, I started tutoring a child that had a learning disability at Third District Elementary School where my mother worked. I worked with him a few times a week, teaching him how to read and write while my mother finished bus duty at the school. I remember seeing the look of accomplishment on his face the day he wrote his name for the first time and how proud he was after reading his first book, “Green Eggs & Ham.”
I was incredibly proud of him, and it was the first time I felt as though I had taught someone something that would make a positive change in their life. It was a wonderful feeling, and I knew I wanted to do more.
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me varies depending on the season. I provide year-round sports programming for the community in a variety of sports. Most days are spent coaching sports, managing a gym, planning fundraisers, and planning social activities for the population that I serve.
What are some of the things you did to build a winning team?
We built upon one word, “Belief,” as Jesus said, “love thy neighbor as yourself,” which includes having respect, love, and fair treatment of others. With that belief, I tried to teach each member of the team to believe in themselves, and our Special Olympics Flag Football Team focused on their skills to win against every team they faced including the overtime win at the state championships which led to them qualifying for the Nationals. The Flag Football team Holly coaches will be attending the 2018 Special Olympic Games in Seattle, Washington.
How many different activities or functions do you manage?
In the summer I host a summer camp, Camp Happy Days, for 170 children and adults with disabilities. I also provide adaptive sports camps for veterans and children where we teach them how to play wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, and goalball, a sport for blind athletes. I also coach Special Olympics programs and sports such as Flag Football, Basketball, Softball, Track & Field, Golf, Bowling, Swimming, Cheerleading, and Young Athletes.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My grandmother, Jean Vincent, says,“It’s the quality of life that matters most, not the quantity.” The population I serve is often overlooked when it comes to things such as employment, education, healthcare, etc. Not being able to gain employment, access healthcare, or get a proper education all affect their quality of life. I want to change the way we view people with disabilities in our society. I want to encourage people to see beyond the disability of a person and focus on their ability.
I left Kummer Little through the back door and on the way to my car it occurred to me that Holly Vincent may just have a leg up on those insurance people that tell you that you’re in good hands.