History | KEEN Greater DC


KEEN is modeled on an innovative program established in Oxford, England by Elliott Portnoy, who brought KEEN to the Washington, DC area in 1992. With help from a handful of parents and volunteers, KEEN started as a single program in the Greater DC area.

In 2005 KEEN began its expansion into select cities across the United States, opening its doors to new athletes and volunteers in Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis, San Francisco, New York and Phoenix. As KEEN grows, it is committed to maintaining its basic ideals: providing free recreational opportunities to children and young adults with disabilities by pairing them with trained volunteers for fun, noncompetitive activities. KEEN seeks to develop each athlete's self-esteem and confidence, as well as recreational skills and talents, and to increase each athlete's ability to participate in a broader range of recreational activities and environments.

Original KEEN logo "Ken" from 1988

The KEEN logo was designed in 1988 by Richard Hunt, one of KEEN's original athletes in Oxford.  Richard loved to draw pictures for KEEN volunteers, which he would bring to sessions and give to his coaches.  When we launched KEEN in Oxford, I asked Richard to design the logo of a KEEN Athlete playing tennis, as KEEN grew out of a tennis coaching program for young people with disabilities.  Richard jumped at the chance, and came to my flat one afternoon with his mother and quickly came up with what we now know as "Ken".  - Elliott Portnoy, KEEN founder


Timeline: KEEN Milestones


  •  Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN) is founded in England.


  • KEEN England’s founder and interested parents and community members in Montgomery County, Md., meet to discuss starting a U.S. version of the program.


  • KEEN holds its first session in the United States.


  • KEEN launches its first major fundraising effort: the annual KEEN Golf Classic.


  • KEEN Club is created to give teenagers with disabilities an opportunity to play team sports and go on outings with peer companions.


  • KEEN hires a part-time staff person.
  • KEEN Swim launches, serving all KEEN athletes.


  • KEEN establishes first U.S. spin-off at the University of Virginia.


  • KEEN launches Fit and Sports programs for young adults.
  • KEEN’s part-time staff job grows into a full-time executive director position.
  • KEEN holds KEENFest, a dinner and silent auction, which becomes a second major annual fundraiser.


  • KEEN celebrates its 10th anniversary and holds its first annual KEEN Sports Festival, inviting athletes from every program to come together as one group at an outdoor recreational event and picnic.
  • KEEN doubles existing sports programs to four weekends a month.  


  • KEEN adds two new programs: Bowling for young adults and Tennis for kids and teens in Northern Virginia.


  • KEEN Music begins, providing dance and music programs to kids and teens.
  • KEEN becomes a national organization and renames the founding affiliate KEEN Greater DC.


  • KEEN Greater DC is selected for inclusion in the 2005 Catalog for Philanthropy: Greater Washington as one of the small charities “making a difference in the DC area.”
  • In celebration of its 40th anniversary, Washingtonian magazine named KEEN Greater DC as one of the “40 organizations [that] strengthen the bodies and spirits of young Washingtonians.”


  • KEEN launches in Southeast DC with two new programs, Sports and Swim.
  • KEEN Greater DC begins collaboration with other local organizations to create much needed programs for adults over 25 years old with disabilities.


  • KEEN establishes a new Music Program in Southeast DC


  • KEEN Greater DC expands the music program in Southeast DC.
  • Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Dawes joins KEEN Greater DC Board of Directors as an honorary board member.


  • KEEN Greater DC establishes two new Sports Programs for kids and teens in Northern VA.
  • New DC Basketball program is launched in September 2010.
  • President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition selects KEEN Greater DC to partner with it on activities aimed at emphasizing importance of sports, fitness and nutrition to people with disabilities.
  • KEEN Greater DC is again selected by the Catalogue For Philanthropy: Greater Washington, in recognition of the outstanding quality of its programs for special needs children and young adult.


  • KEEN Greater DC establishes two new Music/Sensory Programs for kids and teens in Northern VA.
  • New DC Soccer Clinic program is launched in April 2011.
  • KEEN Greater DC established an extraordinary relationship with Johns Hopkins University with the University creating a for-credit undergraduate course, “KEEN: Practicum in Neuroscience”.


  • KEEN celebrates its 20th Anniversary.


  • KEEN Greater DC launches a new Sports program in Vienna, VA.


  • KEEN Greater DC establishes a new young adult program--MD Dance
  • Launches an UNSTOPPABLE campaign, building excitement for KEENFest


  • KEEN Greater DC adds one more sports session at Key Center School, for a total of 3 Sports sessions (2 for kids, 1 for teens) at this program site
  • Starts VA Bowling program, which takes place 2x a month
  • Moves Baltimore Sports program to Dundalk HS


  • KEEN Greater DC-Baltimore holds its first annual KEEN Prom for teenaged athletes living in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, thanks to the Bullis School Community


  • KEEN Greater DC-Baltimore celebrates its 25th Anniversary
  • Launches three new programs: KEEN Baltimore Bowling, KEEN Arlington Sports and KEEN DC Zumba 


  •  KEEN Greater DC-Baltimore launches Yoga for young adults in partnership with the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Silver Spring, MD, as well as Teens Tae Kwon Do in MD. 
  •  Launches Zumba in Arlington and Bowling in Falls Church, VA.


  • KEEN Greater DC-Baltimore launches two new programs for young adults:  ZamDance in Chevy Chase and in partnership with the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, and Yoga in Washington, DC.