Good News

Kids 2 Kids Gives Back

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Last year iLink2Media shared a story about a foundation started by a group of young high school students who were inspired to “Give Back” to their community through working with special needs children. The kids noticed a void in the educational system for this group of children. While public schools offered a plethora of after school programs for main stream students, there were almost no programs for kids requiring special needs.

While most families were benefiting from activities that put kids together in social settings, sports related activities and community uplifting situations through charitable programs, there was an entire community that had nowhere to turn for support or the opportunity to utilize similar programs. To have a few hours of free time to accomplish the pressures of raising kids in an ever-changing environment, is a life saver for some parents.

The program offers swimming, Taekwon-Do, Yoga, Art-Multimedia, Golf, Drama Social Language and Running. The programs take place after school or on weekends at local sporting facilities that donate their location.

At the end of each session offered through the program, there is an event that show cases all of the special needs children involved, and trophies are awarded. The trophies and ribbons are given for 1 st , 2 nd , and 3 rd place winners BUT the best part about the events is that there are only 3 individuals per race, making every participant a winner.

I had an opportunity to attend the most amazing swim meet over the weekend, it was so touching that I feel compelled to share a story of an organization that exemplifies the meaning of charity. There were about 40 families at the event held at the Morristown High School, gathered to see their child athlete compete for what is for some of these kids, in fact most of them, the first ribbon or trophy of their lives.

Having children of my own I know from experience that young kids and teenagers are about as competitive as they come, well the same goes for the autistic, and physically challenged kids I watched swim this past weekend. These kids stood waiting to get on the block or to get in their lane as if they were Olympic athletes ready to swim for gold, it was truly inspiring to watch.

I had a chance to speak with the programs director, Dave May, who has an autistic child himself who for years they struggled through raising their child in a world made up mostly for mainstream kids and families.

He spoke about one child who joined the program 5 years ago saying “when he joined the program he wasn’t even able to interact with others, had no cognitive skills, basically he just spun around in circles. Today he is having conversations while interacting with mentors and kids, ready to swim the race of his life”. As Dave finished talking I witnessed the boy prepping for his race on the block like Michael Phelps, spinning his arms around in circles to loosen up.

I stayed for a few of the races and just could not believe my eyes. These kids cheered each other on as parents and families stood on the deck as proud as they could be. In the clip below you will see the mentors in the pool with them helping them both mentally and physically to reach the finish line. You can see clearly how much the program helps both mentors and the kids in the program. The mentors clearly have interpersonal relationships built with these kids from the year long process of working with them every week building confidence and fighting through fears. The love that the kids have for their mentor is as clear as the smiles on their faces as they tag the wall taking first, second or third place.

It didn’t end there either, after all the races, there was a luncheon with an awards ceremony for all the swimmers and families. There was pizza, salads, deserts and trophies for everyone.  The energy in the room was incredible. To see these young kids who have overcome so many fears and anxieties, hoot and holler for each other and sometimes themselves as they get their trophy was just incredible.

About William F. Mullins

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