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Matt and Kirsten posing for the camera with Knightly laying down in front of them.
Matt, Kirsten & Knightley

Through various programs and services, Northwest Association for Blind Athletes (NWABA) provides opportunities to almost 2,000 individuals who are blind and visually impaired through sports and physical activity. Two of these programs are our year-round Camp Spark and Sports Adaptations programs. These programs are run by Programs Manager, Kirsten French and Programs Specialist, Matt Coelho. These two work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that these programs run smoothly and to provide the best experiences for our athletes. We’d like to bring them front and center so you can get to know them.

What is actually involved in running these programs? Both Kirsten and Matt manage all aspects of both programs including overall Camp Spark planning and logistics, such as hiring Camp staff and volunteers, facility management, scheduling, camper relations and Camp funding. The planning for Camp Spark happens year-round as there are seven different sessions to plan in both the summer and winter seasons; each session with its own nuances. Kirsten and Matt also spend weeks away from home while at camp, as each session offered can run for a few days or up to a week.

Our Sports Adaptations program provides equipment lending, a comprehensive instructional video library and consultations for athletes, educators, school districts and families. Together, they oversee the Sports Adaptations Video Resource (SAL) and Equipment Lending Libraries, provide physical education consultations, create new videos and resource material for the ever-growing library and manage all the adaptive equipment available, which is borrowed by athletes across the nation, so they have opportunities to participate in sports with their peers.

Now that you’re familiar with their roles at NWABA, let’s get to know Kirsten and Matt from East to West. Kirsten, who is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been with NWABA for seven years. She started teaching adaptive swimming in high school then taught special education for a few years after college. Kirsten realized how much she missed adaptive sports and went back to graduate school to receive her master’s degree in Adaptive Physical Activity. Her grad school program focused largely on blind sports. While Kirsten played on the school’s goalball team, a tournament brought her to the Pacific Northwest which then led her to NWABA!

When she’s not at work, Kirsten likes to do anything outdoors. She’s an advanced skier, is a huge Portland Thorns fan, and likes to take adventures with her guide dog, Knightley.

Camp Spark camper, Matt and Kirsten in Camp Spark tshirts watching the activities.

“Camp is more than just something we do for a few weeks throughout the year.  We work throughout the year to ensure that we are providing the highest level of services during our camp programs, developing our programs and staff, and working with teachers and educators throughout the U.S. to ensure that the impact of our programs extends to our athletes in their classrooms and home environments.” ~Kirsten French

VP of Programs, Stacey Gibbins standing on the side of a football field with Kirsten French, Matt Coelho and Knightley.

V.P. of Programs, Stacey Gibbins, Kirsten French, Matt Coelho & Knightley

Matt is one of the newer members of the programs team having worked with NWABA for a year and a half now. Matt grew up in Spokane, Washington and his path towards adaptive sports began after he ran a Wheelchair Basketball tournament in college. (In addition to being a collegiate pole vaulter and water skier.) Having already been an athlete with a passion for sports, Matt turned his passion into a career as he enjoys the challenges of learning new skills and making sports accessible for all.

Matt says the best part of his job is building relationships with the athletes. “It’s so rewarding to get out with athletes and be a part of new experiences or with athletes progressing in their sport specific skills”.

On his days off, Matt is still active. He’s a water-lover who enjoys waterskiing, tries to golf as much as he can and then heads to the slopes for winter skiing.

This dream team makes it all look so easy and now you know a little more about Kirsten and Matt, and how hard they work throughout the year. We’re so happy to have them as part of the NWABA team!