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Fun and fitness for all

TIMES PHOTO BY JAIME VALDEZ - Katy Corcoran, 21, has fun during an Autism Speaks Jump With US outing hosted by Sky High Sports.

For 22-year-old Harrison Steinbrecher, there’s no place he’d rather be on a rainy afternoon than at Sky High Sports.

“Jumping is one of my things,” said Steinbrecher, taking a break from the trampoline. “I’m getting sweaty, and I’m actually loving it.”

Every Tuesday afternoon from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., the indoor trampoline center near Washington Square dims the lights and turns down the music — dialing down sensory distractions to provide a supportive environment for youth with special needs.

Kids, teens and young adults with mental and physical challenges have the chance to throw dodge balls, bounce on one of the trampoline center’s many padded surfaces and make friends.

For young people with special needs like Steinbrecher, the simple act of jumping isn’t just a source of joy. It has major health benefits, aiding development of motor skills, balance and coordination.

“You get to exercise, you get to do a lot of great physical activity,” said Steinbrecher.

For Sky High Sports founder Jerry Raymond, the lack of opportunities available to people with special needs hit close to home. Before he launched the company, Raymond found it challenging to find a place accessible for all children, including his son with Asperger’s syndrome.

“We noticed there weren’t a lot of programs that hosted programs for special needs families in the area,” said Portland-area general manager, Jaime Martinez.

Today, all 16 Sky High Sports locations nationwide host sessions for special needs families.

At Sky High Sports, October is Jump for Autism Speaks month.

Last week, Sky High Sports partnered with Autism Speaks, a national autism advocacy organization, to host a free party for special needs families. With October designated as “Jump for Autism Speaks Month,” the event kicked off a fundraiser to benefit autism awareness efforts.

Until Oct. 31, 100 percent of proceeds from the sale of jump socks will go towards autism awareness programs. A pair of the brightly colored socks costs $3.

Families and providers learn about the programs through word-of-mouth, said Martinez, and the program has grown over the years.

The opportunity to socialize and build camaraderie with others improves emotional health.

“I like that I get to be around other people,” said 21-year-old Katy Corcoran. “I don’t really like being alone.”

But because she deals with developmental delays, socializing hasn’t always come easy to her.

After playing dodgeball with youth of all ages, Corcoran reflected on the challenges she’s had all her life with reading, writing and spelling among other things.

“People have to give me one task at a time,” said Corcoran, who now works at Fred Meyer.

Rachel Lavine, a provider who works with Corcoran, says the discount makes exercise accessible for young adults with special needs struggling to begin providing for themselves.

“It’s a way for them to have access to things they might not research on their own,” said Daniel Doughty, a provider with the Portland-based LifeSource Group, which integrates young adults with developmental delays into society.

Doughty, who works with Steinbrecher, helps organize group outings for his clients, who he said often face challenges in making friends.

“It shows them that their community is a lot bigger than their house. A lot of them just see their community as their living room, their gaming system,” said Doughty. “This widens their horizons.”