By CRISTINA JANNEY
Jason Jordan knew he wanted to continue to work in the field he loved and in a community he loved.
Jordan, 31, returned to Hays this summer after a coaching stint with Pratt Community College softball to become the Arc of the Central Plains activities director.
His goal since taking over the position from Brent Kaiser, who left the Arc to take a position with Special Olympics, is to restart activities for the intellectual and developmentally disabled community members — most of which were canceled since March 202o with the onset of the pandemic.
"My first goal is to get us back to where we were before COVID hit," he said.
Arc participants were able to play softball this summer, volleyball in the fall and just began basketball season. The Arc has also launched bocce, which the organization hasn't offered for many years.
"I plan on bringing a new twist and new activities for the IDD community," he said, "but also the big push right now is to get back to as normal as possible of a schedule with dances and bingo and different activities."
The Arc sponsored its first dance/bingo night in two years on Dec. 3.
"The mental health aspect of being isolated is not good for anybody, including the population we serve," Jordan said, "but then the other part is just physical activity.
"I see a huge spike in physical health. We just need to get back to being active and competing in sports or getting out and walking and doing different things we just haven't done a lot this last year because of COVID and having to stay indoors."
Jordan said the Arc creates opportunities for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities that they would not have any other way. Those opportunities are largely funded through the Arc Thrift Store in downtown Hays.
Jordan, who is from Fort Collins, Colo., attended college at Fort Hays State University, earning a bachelor's degree in recreation and a master's in sports administration.
He landed a position as an assistant coach with the FHSU softball team. He coached at FHSU for three years before moving to Pratt to coach there.
However, Jordan said he missed Hays and the Arc job allowed him to return to the community.
"One of my biggest passions is sports, so finding something to do with sports was a huge part of what I was searching for," he said, "but also a passion to give back to the community.
"With this position, there was a wider range of being able to help a need in Ellis County and also to give back with the skill sets that I have been gifted with to help the programming and different activities we have here in Hays."
Jordan attends Celebration Community Church and coming back to Hays also allowed him to reconnect with an important core group of friends.
"It's more the people I enjoy most here about Hays, and just the small community we do have here," he said.
Jordan had limited experience volunteering with developmentally disabled individuals before he took the job with the Arc, but he had experience dealing with physical limitation.
He had hoped to play baseball in college. However, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma when he was a senior in high school and then later non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He is coming up on 10 years in remission in a couple of months.
"It sucked going through it, but it also pointed me on the path to where I am today," Jordan said. "It was a lot of learning curves, and being able to push myself to get to here is what's made it exciting."
He no longer had the physical conditioning to play at the college level, but spent a summer playing semi-professional baseball in Central America after high school.
Jordan played double hitters almost every night, putting 12 to 13 hours per day into baseball.
"It was fun to see different cultures, and it brought people from different parts of the world to play on the team," he said. "We got to play some of the top athletes in the world and a lot of them went on to play professional baseball.
"It's fun to look back on the group of friends that I made at that time. and see them having successful playing careers and coaching careers. We all took different paths out of there, but it all brought us together for a summer."
The Arc is always needing volunteers, especially long-term volunteers who could commit to traveling with the teams. For those interested, call Jordan at the Arc at 785-628-8831 or stop by the office at 600 Main, Hays.