Capital Region Kids with Special Needs Boogie their Way to Fitness
07/30/19 (West Sand Lake, NY) – Childhood obesity is on the rise and kids with disabilities tend to be less active than their classmates, but one lucky group of Capital Region kids with special needs spent their weekend in Chatham learning how exercise can be fun and encouraging.
It’s all part of an outdoor camping weekend called “Music and Movement,” and the goal is to make exercise more accessible for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Music and Movement is offered every summer by STRIDE Adaptive Sports, a nonprofit organization that works to make life in the Capital Region more fun, healthy, and inclusive for people with disabilities. It’s one of six themed camping weekends at the STRIDE SCORE Camp in Chatham.
STRIDE founder Mary Ellen Whitney believes that no one should be left behind because of a disability, which is exactly what she saw happening during her years as a BOCES physical education teacher. “The other kids had clubs, sports programs, dances and proms, but students with special needs were not getting the same opportunities to exercise or socialize.”
Whitney combined her skills and experience in special needs education with her love of sports and the outdoors to create the Music and Movement camp, and results have been inspiring. “Music is a universal language and it instantly loosens people up,” said program director Megan Evans. “Keeping things fun and low-pressure is key when helping kids who struggle with sensory overload, problems with balance and coordination, and sometimes poor social behavior.”
According to Evans, 10 children with special needs spent the weekend camping outdoors in tents and exercising with a musical theme. They were treated to Zumba, yoga and dancing and enjoyed a trip to the nearby Mac-Haydn Theater to see “Jane of the Jungle.” Campers met some of the theater’s inspiring youth performers after the show and had the chance to create some music-inspired art of their own. They even helped with food preparation and cooking to improve their skills at activities of daily living.
More important than anything, the children developed a taste for a healthy, active lifestyle and have been encouraged to participate in the other adaptive sports and recreation programs that STRIDE offers. According to Whitney, “We’re not just giving awesome experiences; we’re building positive habits that become a lifestyle. Consistency is the key.” To learn more about Music and Movement and other adaptive sports in the Capital Region, visit STRIDE online at https://www.stride.org.
About STRIDE Adaptive Sports
STRIDE Adaptive Sports is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides over 11,000 adaptive sport and recreation lessons each year to individuals with disabilities, focusing on youth and combat-injured veterans. STRIDE utilizes over 500 skilled volunteer sport instructors; serves over 2,300 families; and offers programs in more than 18 different sports at 26+ regional locations in the Northeastern US. With a focus on individual lifetime sports, our programs use specialized equipment or teaching aids for successful participation to “level the playing field” for all. More information is available at www.stride.org.