The Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo is partnering with Elmwood Franklin School to host a fundraiser for Au-Some Swimmers, a learn-to-swim program for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, Sunday, April 7.
The program for children, the first of its kind in the WNY area, began in July 2013 as a collaboration between the JCC and the Children’s Guild Foundation Autism Spectrum Disorder Center at Women’s and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.
Since 2014, Au-Some Swimmers has received a total of $48,000 from nine different grantors making it possible for families to benefit from subsidies which cover half of the program fees. The program is offered year round, and more than 85 children have participated in Au-Some Swimmers with 90% enrolled in multiple seasons. Students attend weekly private swim lessons with flexible curriculum.
Au-Some Swimmers is beneficial for the whole family. Parents and siblings are welcomed to join during lessons and everyone is encouraged to participate in open swim time after lessons. “We understand how important it is for every member of the family to get involved in the process,” says JCC Aquatics Director Jonathan Palma. “The skills covered are based on each child’s abilities and goals, but achievements are enhanced when the whole family joins in and it’s always exciting to see siblings and parents celebrate their success as a family,” says Palma.
This past October, Au-Some Swimmers was awarded Community Service Program of the Year by the Western New York Parent Teacher Association. “This program gives my son Ian, and so many other children who live with Autism, the opportunity to not only learn to swim, but develop life-saving skills on their own terms surrounded by people who fully support them,” says Dana Marciniak, Au-Some Swimmers mom. “I feel extremely lucky to have a program like Au-Some Swimmers in our area and would love to see more children have the chance to experience what we have, “says Marciniak.
The Au-Some Swimmers event will take place in the Johnston Theatre, at Elmwood Franklin School, 104 New Amsterdam Ave from 2pm to 4:30pm. Generously sponsored by The Summit Center and Tapestry Charter School, the event includes a screening of the film Swim Team, which chronicles the rise of the Jersey Hammerheads, a New Jersey based swim team of teenagers on the autism spectrum. The film captures a moving quest for inclusion, independence and a life that covers issues related to special education, parenting, employment and housing. “Swim Team plunges viewers into the world of young men on the autism spectrum as they compete against other teams and race against the clock in their transition towards adulthood. It’s a touching and real look at what young adults on the autism spectrum and their families are capable of and the challenges they face,” says Suzanne Buchanan Psy. D. BCBAD, Executive Director, Autism.
“In addition to raising funds for the program our goal is to create more awareness throughout the WNY community so that children and families that would benefit from participating in the program may do so”, says Palma. “Drowning is the leading cause of death for children with autism. Swimming is an important life skill to have and fear of water is not uncommon for children on the spectrum. The beginning lessons are difficult and instructors require special type of patience and the ability to adapt to all situations. The progress we see in your students by the end of the season is incredible, and most are swimming independently, learning water safety and socially interacting with others. We hope our program can build a love to swim and open doors for inclusion and acceptance for children on the Autism Spectrum as demonstrated in the film Swim Team,” says Palma.
There will be a brief discussion about the program before the film screening, and following the film, instructors and families participating in the program will be available to answer questions and speak more about the program to audience members.
Tickets are $10 per person and will benefit the Au-Some Swimmer program. Tickets may be purchased at either JCC member Services Desk, online atwww.jccbuffalo.org or by calling Katie Wzontek, Cultural Arts Director at the JCC at 716-204-2084.