In June of 2020, Chris Finn passed away unexpectedly. Chris was a key member of the BORP community, having coached power soccer with our organization since 2002. He was also a remarkable athlete, mentor, colleague, and friend. In an attempt to honor his memory and capture the immense impact he had on his sport and all the BORP athletes he worked with, we are sharing this brief tribute to Chris and his work.
Chris first learned about BORP after moving to the Bay Area in 2001. He came to watch a power soccer practice and, such was his natural gift for the game that, within two weeks, staff member Jonathan Newman asked Chris to become the BORP power soccer coach.
“He fit in immediately,” says Jonathan. “He had the presence of an athlete and he had a remarkable ability to coach other athletes. Having grown up playing soccer, he knew the game. And he knew what it was to be in a power chair.”
Chris was a gifted player and coach and, in addition to taking BORP’s teams on to experience great success, he also made his mark at a national and international level in the sport. He played a key role in developing the Federation Internationale Power Chair Football Association and helped shape the rules of the developing game.
In 2005, Chris was selected to the USA National Power Soccer team, voted Defensive MVP for the Power Soccer World Invitational, and selected to be the USA representative for the International rules committee. In 2006, he was selected as the head coach of the USA World Cup team and went on to take the team to win in the 2007 final against the heavy favorite, France. In 2011 he was head coach for the USA team again and went on to win a second time.
Says Jonathan Newman, “Chris totally believed in the team. He got them playing together well and he also got them to believe that they weren’t just going to the World Cup, but that they were going to win it.”
There’s no doubt that Chris got results from his players, but everyone who speaks of him talks about his outstanding character. Again and again, people praise him for his kindness, his patience, his positivity, and an attitude that always made everyone feel respected and valued. At BORP, he had a lasting impact on so many people’s lives.
Says power soccer player Ariana Dindzans, who’s been on the BORP Shockers (the team coached by Chris) since 2014, “Chris had a personal impact on every single one of us on the team. I’ve never had such a kind, patient, understanding, relatable role-model. If we made a mistake on court, he would encourage us to learn from it and put a stop to our negativity immediately. Because of that, he really helped me build my sense of confidence and self-worth. He made sure everyone on the team knew they were important and valued. He had such a huge influence on my life.”
Similarly, Julie Fuller, who coaches BORP’s other power soccer team, the Bombers, remembers him as being consistently supportive. “What made him such a good coach,” says Julie, “is that he was always very encouraging. He’d tell me, ‘You know what you’re doing, so trust yourself.’ He never focused on the negative. People with disabilities always hear ‘you can’t do this.’ But Chris was always about “You CAN do this!”
Jonathan Newman echoes these sentiments. “Whenever Chris talked to someone, he made them feel like they were the most important person. And this was particularly meaningful for the athletes at BORP who often don’t get that kind of respect. As a coach, he had a light touch–when he was working with the players, he never yelled and he never showed frustration. And he always had realistic but high expectations of the team. He created an atmosphere where they really thrived.”
In addition to coaching at BORP, Chris made many other important contributions to the community. He was President of the Board of Directors for CRIL (Community Resources for Independent Living) and Vice Chair and Commissioner for the City of Oakland Mayor’s Commission on Persons with Disabilities. And in 2019, he was recognized for his enormous impact on power soccer and adaptive sports when he received the Disabilities Allies Award of Excellence from United Soccer Coaches.
While he left us far too soon, Chris Finn had an outsized impact. All of us at BORP miss him, but are also deeply grateful for all he did for adaptive sports, athletes with disabilities, and the BORP community. A Virtual Celebration of Life Gathering will take place on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. CT (Chris Finn Day in the City of Oakland) to celebrate Chris’s life. Visit his Facebook page for event details. A Zoom link will be updated on his Facebook page in advance of the celebration.
For the last several weeks, BORP’s board and staff have been processing the tragic death of George Floyd, the recent protests against police violence and systemic racism, and the rising awareness that something must be done to address these injustices. Most importantly we have begun the process of critically looking at how BORP can be a positive force in combating racism and contributing to social justice in the future. The following statement summarizes our discussions and a way forward.
BORP is deeply saddened and troubled by the police violence and brutality against Black men and women and peaceful protesters during the last few weeks. We wish to express our full support for our communities challenging injustice. The systematic brutality we’ve seen again and again perpetrated against Black people is not new. What is new, is the outpouring of outrage and the widespread acknowledgement that racism in our country must end and be addressed in meaningful and impactful ways. The fight for racial justice intersects with the disability community in that violence, including violence by law enforcement, disproportionately impacts people with disabilities.
To move forward and demonstrate BORP’s commitment to address racial inequities within our organization, we will conduct staff training on racial equity, develop and implement an equity plan to better serve communities of color and other marginalized groups, and become educated about how we can be better allies in the movement to end racism.
We stand/sit in solidarity. Black lives matter.
We are all looking forward to a time when we can enjoy the outdoors and other activities together. Our BORP bus has made many trips to regional parks, coastal hiking trails and community events. These areas are difficult to access through public transportation alone, and our wheelchair accessible buses make it possible to travel in small groups. BORP transportation has been selected to receive a Federal FTA 5310 grant for the purchase of a new accessible bus! This new bus will replace our older bus and will have a modified floor plan to allow up to 6 people in wheelchairs to ride together. This floor plan makes it possible for our youth wheelchair basketball team, sled hockey and youth cyclists to travel to their practices and local tournaments. The adult Adventure & Outings participants, and Power Soccer team will also benefit from having 2 reliable, safe and accessible buses in the future.
BORP’s accessible group trip transportation service is made possible by funding from Alameda County Transportation Commission through the Special Transportation Program for Seniors and People with Disabilities (Measure B funds). This service is aimed at improving the mobility of people with disabilities and increasing access to sports and recreation activities by supplementing conventional fixed route service and addressing the current gap in accessible group trip options for youth and adults with disabilities in Alameda County.
In addition to providing transportation for BORP program participants, we also offer a fee-for-service Group Trip Service option with discounted community rates for disability groups and nonprofits. Our accessible buses allow your entire group to travel together in the same vehicle whether individuals are using a wheelchair or not.
If you would like to inquire about accessible bus for group outings please reach out to the BORP staff point of contact below. We appreciate the opportunity to serve our fellow community organizations. We look forward to serving our community sometime in the future as we slowly and safely navigate participating in outdoor trips and events.
Point of contact: BORP Transportation Coordinator, Sarah-Dawn Smith, at email@example.com
As we all know, COVID-19 has changed everything. In particular, the disability community is facing serious health and economic challenges, as well as increased social isolation. At BORP we are working hard to address at least some of these needs.
For some months before the pandemic, we were working on providing online fitness and wellness classes, but then COVID-19 struck, and, under the very capable leadership of Cynthia Noonan, the BORP Online Fitness Studio was born almost overnight. We have been overwhelmed by the popularity of the classes and the acclaim they have received.
As restrictions ease, BORP has started planning for the reopening of our programs. Our first priority is the health and safety of our participants, staff, and volunteers. To that end, we created a Task Force to plan our next steps. These will include the following:
We are excited about reopening, and plan to start with the Cycling Center (see article below). Our commitment is to reduce the risk as much as possible while offering our community opportunities for sports and recreation, but we cannot eliminate risk altogether. Each individual will need to make their own decisions about participation.On a final note, I wanted to update you on our 2020 Revolution. We have determined that the REV cannot go forward in Santa Rosa as originally planned, and we are planning a reimagined REV this year. While it will be different, it is more important than ever that our community comes together to support BORP’s programs. I hope you can join us to support BORP in weathering this challenging time.
Rick Smith, Executive Director
We are pleased to let you know that BORP recently published our 2019 Annual Report.
In 2019, in addition to serving 1,000+ participants, BORP expanded several of our programs, added initiatives to serve specific populations, and continued to provide a wide range of high quality adaptive sport, recreation and fitness activities to children, youth, and adults throughout the Bay Area. For more details, view the report HERE.