The YMCA First Special Needs Summer Program
“It is not enough to make a life for a person with a disability.
We must make them a life worth living. ~ Winston Churchill
When I think of YMCA, I think of family and community. Their motto, “we build strong kids, strong families, and strong communities” can be seen displayed at each branch. YMCA is there to help kids and families reach their full potential.
Where is there a better place to help special needs kids and their families? This is what came to mind when two YMCA employees came together to start a new program at YMCA of the Shoals in Florence, Alabama. This program is called the YMCA of the Shoals Special Needs Summer Program.
Kristy McKinney is an Aerobics instructor at YMCA of the Shoals and mom to two young children, Jon Andrew and Hudson. Jon Andrew is a four year old adorable blonde boy diagnosed with idiopathic Infantile Spasms and other seizure types. Jessica Collins is mom to three children, Zeke, Sam, and Aurelia. Zeke, eight years old, is the oldest of Jessica’s children and is diagnosed with autism.
Both of these moms have worked at the YMCA, but that aside, had little to do with their efforts. They have worked hard in the Shoals area for the past two years to establish a Special Needs Summer Day Camp Program at the YMCA of the Shoals. They saw the need in our community for this type of program, which is unlike any other. This summer camp will be a nine week, highly structured developmental program for special needs kids
The YMCA of the Shoals Special Needs Summer Day Camp Program is truly unique. One of the goals of this program is that it will provide one on one support for children with physical and developmental disabilities. Children in this program will receive 1:1 support from trained staff while still being integrated into the different counselor groups.
Individualized support allows campers to be included in all aspects of the YMCA summer program while still meeting the unique needs of each child’s disability. This support facilitates friendships, skill development and independence while attending to the personal care and safety needs of the children. Most importantly, the YMCA Special Needs Program provides a developmental experience that will help these children not only maintain what they learned during the school year, but to advance them in preparation for the following year.
This program will allow children with special needs to attend the YMCA Summer Day Camp Program with peace of mind from the parents. This is a huge success for a community that has no other program like this for families with a special needs child. “This program is turning a “need” for Shoals children, into a “reality,” Kristy McKinney states. “A project like this gives all of us an extraordinary opportunity to be a part of making a child’s life one that IS worth living.”
The mission of the program clearly states “The mission of the YMCA Special Needs Summer Program is to provide opportunities for children with special needs to learn, play, interact, and be integrated within the context of the typical summer camp community at the YMCA of the Shoals.”
YMCA of the Shoals has an aquatic center, fitness center, gymnasium, meeting rooms, outdoor fields, outdoor play gym, and indoor Kid Zone. There are also YMCA summer sports such as Karate, swimming, gymnastics, t-ball, soccer, yoga, kid aerobics, and many other activities. There is plenty of opportunity for all children to grow, learn, and participate.
The YMCA Special Needs Summer Program will begin this summer 2009 thanks to both Kristy McKinney and Jessica Collins, and their hard work and determination. These two wonderful ladies have shown true advocacy for special needs children and their families. The effort put forth by each of these women makes me proud to honor them as everyday heroes!
To support the Special Needs Summer Day Camp Program or request further information, please contact: Kristy McKinney at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jessica Collins at email@example.com Donations are tax deductible.