As you can see, Jeremy LOVES the water. His current record is six hours in the swimming pool, coming out only for mandated potty breaks. But swimming lessons for a pre-verbal kid with autism who requires 1:1 instruction, can be prohibitively expensive. All the more reason I’m so grateful for SNAP.
What is SNAP?
Special Needs Aquatic Program (SNAP) is a wonderful program based in Berkeley and Palo Alto for students with various physical and/or developmental challenges. Every week, kids climb out of wheelchairs and into the pool to enjoy the freedom that water allows.
Each child is supported by a 1:1 “buddy,” under the watchful supervision of several trained coaches. The SNAP’ers practice skills like moving, walking, reaching, rolling, and of course swimming. Kids like Jeremy gain independence, confidence and strength. Most of all — kids just get to be kids, make friends, laugh and have a lot of fun. And fun is harder to come by, especially for Jeremy.
“I Want Swim Y Camp!”
Jeremy has been participating since fall 2012. Every Friday afternoon, he eagerly looks forward to “Swim Y Camp!” held at the YMCA in Palo Alto. It’s clearly the highlight of his week. Meanwhile, his tired ole’ mum gets to just sit poolside for 45 (blissful) minutes, watching him squeal, splash and (hopefully) learn to swim.
And the added bonus? The first day we walked into the Y, we ran into Jeremy’s SDC teacher, Justine, in the parking lot. We laughed at the coincidence… until we realized we were headed to the same program. She was one of the directors overseeing SNAP! What on earth? My son’s credentialed Special Ed teacher — one of the few persons on earth who knows him as well as I do, and who is mindful of every single IEP goal– is going to be his swim coach, too?!
Sure enough, Justine and his buddy soon busted out with a customized visual schedule with velcro icons for Jeremy– laminated and waterproof, no less– to keep this highly excitable guy on task. For a special needs parent, it just doesn’t get any better than this!
Kids With Dreams
SNAP partners with Kids With Dreams (KWD), a remarkable student-led organization at Stanford, dedicated to improving the lives of disabled children. Since its establishment in 1997, KWD has worked in conjunction with local schools and programs, serving as a gateway in connecting Stanford students and other local volunteers with physically and mentally disabled youth. With its founding principles of social entrepreneurship, KWD has quickly risen to become one of the most widely recognized and acclaimed service groups at Stanford University.
Jeremy’s Buddy this spring is Nicole, a sophomore majoring in Human Biology. Nicole has enjoyed swimming with SNAP-ers since her freshman year, and currently serves as the SNAP Coordinator for KWD. We lucked out to get her as Jeremy’s Buddy!
I asked Nicole to share her thoughts and experiences on SNAP. She brought me to tears, as shared her heart and passion for the program, and for our kids.
Volunteers Love SNAP, Too
- How did you get involved with SNAP? I first heard about SNAP from my aunt, whose son used to be a SNAP swimmer. I’ve always loved working with children. Having seen how much it means to the families of children with special needs, and to have the opportunity to participate in a program like SNAP, I knew that it was something I would love to be a part of.
- What do you enjoy most about the program? I love watching our relationships with the kids bloom throughout the quarter, as we all get more comfortable and break out of our shells. I look forward to working with the same amazing kids each week. Seeing and feeling their happiness brightens up my whole week. Seeing their progress throughout the year is also amazing; I’ve worked with kids who are afraid of getting in the water for the first class, and by the end of the quarter it’s practically impossible to get them out of the pool! Additionally, I love watching the kids come to life in the water; sometimes kids who spend all day in their wheelchairs get to walk for the first time in their lives in the water. I feel their joy and pride as strongly as they do. It’s an amazing community of caring, compassionate volunteers, adorable children, and their inspiring parents who all work together to bring a little joy to our day.
- What’s a signature SNAP Moment for you? One swimmer, we liked to call him “Mister No.” He’d frequently respond “No!” to many of our comments and suggestions (we liked to think he doesn’t always mean it!) He would whine that he wanted to sing the goodbye song and “go home.” One of my favorite days at SNAP was when he was enjoyed singing our songs so much that instead of his usual “go home” chant, he started saying “stay!” and kept on singing. When we asked if we wanted to go home he said “No!” It was so fun to see his affirmation that he was having as good of a time as we were!
- What have you gained from SNAP? Getting out of the “Stanford Bubble” through SNAP has been incredible for me and my development as a student. On campus, it’s too easy to get incredibly caught up on and stressed out over problem sets and exams and daunting questions about our futures. Taking a few hours a week to play with kids in SNAP keeps me grounded, and reminds me that there are so many things in life more important than my daily concerns. This has really helped me deal with my own school-induced stress. Additionally, working with the kids puts me in such a good mood and makes so happy that energy carries me throughout the rest of my week. All I have to do is think back to a moment with one of the kids during the week, to put a smile on my face.
Clearly, special needs kids and families are not the only ones who benefit from this inclusive program. I marvel that busy Stanford students like Nicole, after a full week of classes, work and campus activities, would volunteer their Friday afternoons to teach, play and enjoy our kids for more than two hours every week. And they like it?! God bless ’em!
The Swim-A-Thon is ON
SNAP is made possible thanks to the partnership with KWD, passionate volunteers like Nicole, and funding though donations and nominal fees collected from participating families.
Right now through June 7, SNAP is sponsoring a Swim-A-Thon. Throughout the month of May, all SNAP swimmers have been tracking their laps at the pool during the month of May (well, ok. Their Buddies have been tracking the laps 😉
All Swim-A-Thon proceeds will go towards swimmer scholarships, programming and volunteer training.
Yep, I’m Doing The Ask
While other organizations or swim programs might have corporate sponsorship or larger platforms, SNAP is a small, local program that relies on grass-roots fundraising efforts. Ahem, like this humble one 🙂
I’m not one who likes to ask for help, much less ask for money. But to empower a great cause like SNAP, I’m all for it.
So I’m calling on Jeremy’s family, friends and any champions for exceptional kids, to help us reach our Team Jeremy goal of $250.
How Do I Donate?
Go to www.snapkids.org and click on the yellow “Donate Now” button at the bottom. Sponsors can pledge via Paypal, credit card, or mail a check payable to:
c/o Dori Maxon
5830 Sacramento Ave.
Richmond, CA 94804
Sponsors can pledge a set amount, or make a pledge per lap. For Team Jeremy, since a “lap” is a fluid concept for him (quite literally) I’d recommend a flat donation. Even $5 will help us towards our goal of $250! And be sure to indicate “Jeremy Kim” in the memo or somewhere.
If you hurry and make your pledge by this Friday, a generous benefactor, Physical Therapy Innovations, has granted a Swim-A-Thon challenge: If swimmers can raise an additional $1,000 by May 31st, they will match it. Your contributions to SNAP will go twice as far in supporting amazing kids with special needs in pursuit of fun, exercise, good health, and independence.
Your tax-deductible donations makes SNAP possible, making a positive difference for our special kids, families, volunteers and community.
So come on, friends: Bring on The Wow. Together, let’s blow this $250 goal out of the water, so more special kids –and amazing volunteers– can enjoy the unique blessing that is SNAP.
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