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. As KEEN Greater DC 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 Greater DC Milestones


  • Celebrates 30th Anniversary.  Launches new programs in Prince George's Co., Maryland.


  • After 17 months of virtual programs, KEEN Greater DC-Baltimore returns to in person activities in all four program regions: Montgomery Co, Baltimore, MD, DC and VA


  • Within a week of shutting down programs due to the COVID pandemic, KEEN Greater DC-Baltimore transitions into KEEN Live at Home on virtual, online programs. Creates 8 online programs.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • Celebrates its 25th Anniversary.  Launches three new programs: KEEN Baltimore Bowling, KEEN Arlington Sports and KEEN DC Zumba.


  • Holds its first annual KEEN Prom for teenaged athletes living in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, thanks to the Bullis School Community.


  • 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.


  • Establishes a new young adult program--MD Dance. Launches an UNSTOPPABLE campaign, building excitement for KEENFest.


  • Launches a new Sports program in Vienna, VA. KEEN Greater DC establishes an extraordinary relationship with Johns Hopkins University with the University creating a for-credit undergraduate course, “KEEN: Practicum in Neuroscience”.


  • Celebrates its 20th Anniversary.


  • Establishes two new Music/Sensory Programs for kids and teens in Northern VA.  Launches new DC Soccer Clinic program is in April.  


  • Establishes two new Sports Programs for kids and teens in Northern VA. Launches new DC Basketball program is in September. President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition selects KEEN Greater DC to partner with it on activities aimed at emphasizing the 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.


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


  • Establishes a new Music Program in Southeast DC.


  • Celebrates 15th anniversary.  KEEN launches a new (fourth) swim in MD.  Moves the Southeast DC: Sports program to St. Coletta school.


  • 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.


  •  Is selected for inclusion in the 2005 Catalogue 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 names KEEN Greater DC as one of the “40 organizations [that] strengthen the bodies and spirits of young Washingtonians.”


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


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


  • 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.


  • Launches Fit and Sports programs for young adults.  Hires the first executive director.  KEEN holds KEENFest, a dinner and silent auction, which becomes a second major annual fundraiser.


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


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


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


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


  • Holds its first session in the United States.


  • 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.


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