The Joseph Maley Foundation

The Joseph Maley Foundation is a great organization and resource in Indianapolis that individuals with special needs and their families can benefit from. The organization has a long list of things that they offer including sports, special education, sibling workshops, and so much more. Cory Hernandez, the Joseph Maley Foundation Fitness Manager, answered some questions about his work with this organization. If you are interested in the resources that are discussed in the interview or want to learn more, check out their wesbite.  To continue following their journey, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Can you describe the Joseph Maley Foundation?

The Joseph Maley Foundation is an Indianapolis nonprofit, established in 2008, with the mission, “serving children of all abilities.” Today, the Foundation has five programs that serve the whole child and those who directly affect the child, including parents, siblings, friends, educators, health professionals, and community leaders. Our programs offer:

-Dynamic and engaging disability awareness to schools and organizations;

-Mental, physical, social and emotional health understanding to children;

-IEP and special education advocacy to connect families and educators;

-Sibling workshops, which provide an environment to discuss shared experiences;

-Adaptive and inclusive athletics for all children.

What is your involvement in the foundation and how long have you been involved?

I am the Joseph Maley Fitness Manager, JMF’s adaptive and inclusive athletics program. I have worked for the Foundation since November 2014. 

How did you originally get involved in the special needs community?

Growing up, I went to small private schools that did not have many special education or resource opportunities. So I truthfully did not have much interaction with the special needs community until college. 

When I was an undergrad at Purdue, receiving my Physical Education teaching license, I was involved with a program called Pete’s Pals. This program used a similar style to Joseph Maley Fitness, pairings volunteers with children of varying abilities, but working independently

to meet the needs and goals of each athlete. This was a weekly volunteer commitment for a school year, and most of my classmates were involved so it was easy to get plugged in. 

Fast forward to grad school, I attended Ball State to receive my Masters in Sport Administration. I became a substitute teacher for Muncie Community Schools when I had the availability. With a first-come, first-served type of system, a lot of the open jobs were for Special

Education aides. I often subbed for the Special Education classes for the district. I looked back at my time at Purdue and knew that working with children with special needs was not a daunting task for me, and I was comfortable helping out where the district needed me. 

After Ball State, I looked to get started in the world of athletics and was on the job hunt. My aunt and uncle were serving on the Joseph Maley Foundation Board of Directors when the need for a Joseph Maley Fitness staff person to build the new program was announced. My aunt reached out to see if I was interested in applying, and of course I was. I Interviewed with John and Vivian Maley, co-founders of JMF, and we all saw that it was going to be a great fit! 

What does the Fitness Center have to offer? 

Joseph Maley Foundation has our own Enrichment Center, but Joseph Maley Fitness usually uses our rents outside facilities and venues for our adaptive athletics. The only program we host at the Joseph Maley Enrichment Center is the Joseph Maley Fitness Adaptive Yoga sessions.

Joseph Maley Fitness will offer in 2019 include:

  • Basketball
  • Cheerleading
  • Easter Egg Hunt
  • Fall Running
  • Football
  • Halloween Event
  • Rowing
  • run2gether: Racing chair program pairing children up with an adult for 5Ks, Halfs, Tris, and Marathons
  • Soccer
  • Swimming
  • T-Ball
  • Track and Field
  • Yoga
  • Other Events throughout the year. 

What is your favorite component that The Joseph Maley Foundation offers?

I can’t really pick favorites, all programs help families in such different and necessary ways. I have mostly worked with Joseph Maley Fitness, but at JMF we all have to wear a lot of hats and work across multiple programs to help make events run smoothly. I believe that we do an excellent job of putting the person first and not using disabilities to define anyone. We don’t focus on what people can’t do because of certain disabilities but really focus on what they can do. 

What is the biggest inspiration that you have learned/gained from working with people with special needs?

Sports played a large and important role in my life, and it’s great to see other children learn about sports and have that passion grow in them. 

What do you think is misunderstood by the general public about people with special needs?

We always teach that our athletes are children just like any other children: they (and their parents) are looking to play, have fun, and learn. Some children just need a little extra support to make that happen. Adaptive sports camps and clinics are not really harder than any other camps or clinics. If you can get people around you that are passionate and willing to give their time to get the athletes out on the field, you see it’s not too difficult a task. We work with our athletes on learning how to play a certain sport, as well as how they can play at home or with their families. 

Are there any upcoming events that you would like to promote or that you are really excited about?

We have Spring Basketball, which starts March 24. We have five gyms to choose from with different times at each gym. Attached is a flyer that includes specific details for each location. 

Do you have anything else that you would like to tell our community?

The main goal of Joseph Maley Fitness is to provide adaptive athletics for children of all abilities. We open it up to siblings, relatives, friends, whoever – disability or no disability. We pair volunteers with our athletes so we can create truly customized and adaptive programming for children of all needs and ability. We have a lot of families sign up multiple siblings so they are all able to participate in the program together, but still learn at their own pace. They are not pushed too hard trying to fit a certain teaching style, nor are they not being challenged enough if they are more skilled than others. We always welcome new athletes and volunteers throughout the year and even if you cannot attend every session we still encourage you to participate or help. 

Emma Benner

Emma Benner

Social Media Intern

Emma is a student-athlete at Purdue University majoring in Kinesiology and on the cross country and track and field teams. She has been involved in the special needs community for many years as a coach with Special Olympics Minnesota, and  as a personal care assistant/respite sitter. She has worked in media, marketing, and journalism with various organizations. When Emma has some free time, she enjoys riding horses (she grew up doing barrel racing), baking doughnuts and cake pops (yum!), pursuing her new art interest (wood burning, painting, or drawing), or going for a long fun in sunny weather (her favorite!).