Suddenly there are unicorns everywhere. In pictures on pink balloons, printed on a girl’s leggings. Several girls wear headbands topped with shimmering unicorn horns. The birthday parties have started to arrive for Friday night roller skating at the Astoria Armory.
Girls and moms with their arms full of decorations and gifts cluster around a small table at the Armory entrance while Amanda Adams gives them directions: where to set up, where to get roller skates. She’s the Armory’s volunteer coordinator, and is herself a volunteer — one of just a handful the Armory relies on to deliver programs, work with kids and serve visitors.
Adams has spent the past 21 years in Astoria and Knappa and is raising two daughters while going to school full time. She’s worked as a preschool teacher in the past, and now is involved with Clatsop Court Appointed Special Advocates, advocating for children in the courtroom, as well as the Armory.
“My heart’s always been drawn to kids,” Adams explained.
She has only been involved with the Armory for the past four years, but has quickly become indispensable. She works with kids in the organization’s anti-bullying programs, covers the front desk on Friday’s family skate nights, follows up with kids in the programs, organizes staffing for weekend events and programs, returns emails — the list goes on.
“She is like my right-hand man, basically,” said Robyn Koustic, the director of the Armory and the organization’s only employee. “She maybe misses four weekends out of the year.”
Adams first joined the Armory when her family became involved in roller derby. Adams and her daughters were born with a form of dwarfism and at first doubted if skating would be an activity for them. Koustic told them, “Why not!”
Adams was raised by a family that didn’t treat her differently because of her dwarfism. Sure, there were step stools everywhere to make sure she could reach things, but her over 6-foot-tall brothers still wrestled with her like they would any other sibling.
She didn’t realize there was a name for what made her different from the people around her until she walked into a doctor’s office as a 12-year-old and he started rattling off terminology.
“As a mom, I wanted to make sure my girls knew from the very beginning that this is what you have but it doesn’t determine who you are,” Adams said.
When Adams started volunteering at the Armory, there was a learning curve, Koustic said. Kids will be curious about Adams’ dwarfism, but are rarely cruel, she said. It’s the adults who often will stare and be rude.
“But she takes it all with a grain of salt,” Koustic said. “She’s beautiful. She’s discriminated against so much because of her size, but she has tremendous courage and tolerance.”
“At the Armory, none of us see her as different … that’s her home, the Armory, and no one can take that from her.”