Learning to swim is particularly beneficial for individuals with special needs. Swimming helps balance, coordination, and the development of motor skills. The YMCA Special Needs Aquatic Program (SNAP) began 19 years ago and was designed to help individuals with special needs by boosting physical activity levels, developing self-confidence, providing an opportunity for socialness, and teaching a life-saving skill.
The SNAP program was first developed by one of the Ys former SPY coaches whose daughter has Down Syndrome. The program has grown substantially since the first SNAP lesson. It has incorporated private swim lessons and now is the home to a competitive swim team, The Snapping Turtles. The purpose of the Snapping Turtles is to expose the athletes to social interactions while working as a team. It also provides an opportunity for them to compete in Special Olympics. The SNAP swim program is subsidized by the Strong Kids scholarship fund. This fund also supports individuals from the Snapping Turtles who want to participate in Special Olympics.
Patrick has taken part of many of the special needs programs at the YMCA. He has participated in the special needs dance program, bowling and now the swimming program. He has been involved in the Snapping Turtles for the past two years. He also enjoys skating, basketball, volleyball and is a member of a Boy Scouts troop. He is an employee of SPARC where he is responsible for cleaning churches around the Springfield community. He like to spend his “free” time watching T.V., relaxing, and listening to music. His mother, Anita, says, “Patrick loves to keep busy, and the programs the YMCA offers have been a great way for Patrick to keep busy, make some friends, and stay active.”
Rath Mellinger, Snapping Turtles coach says, “Patrick loves swimming at the YMCA and we love having him as part of the Snapping
Turtles team. Patrick finds enjoyment in all the programming the Y provides. He is doing what makes his soul happy.” The Snapping
Turtles swim team provides many of physical benefits for it’s athletes. But the true objective of the program is seen in the more
intangible benefits like confidence, trust, teamwork, courage and friendship.