Local non-profit hosts summer swim camp for kids with special needs

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A swimming camp designed to help kids and young adults with disabilities took place this week.

We stopped by the BSC Aquatic Center to see why it’s making such a splash.

Keeping the Promise, a local non-profit that offers support services to kids and teens with special needs, hosted its first-ever iCan Swim Camp.

“There is a big vacuum for a program like this. We really don’t have an adapted swim program in the community right now. So, we really want word to get out,” said Matt Poppe, an organizer and swimming coach.

Kids and young adults enrolled in the class are taught the basics: blowing bubbles, paddling and jumping in the pool.

Parents tell us it’s great to let their kids socialize and have fun, but that it’s also about safety.

“I want Emma to be safe and know that her lifejacket helps and you have to be cautious when you’re going into a pool. But yet, I don’t want her scared of water either. So, I feel like taking her swimming and introducing her to water is very important,” said Rachel Keegan.

“A lot of our kids really need to learn survival skills in water. There is a high mortality rate with children with autism and drowning, specifically,” said Poppe.

In fact, the CDC lists drowning as one of the most common causes of death for children ages 1 to 14. It comes second to motor vehicle crashes.

Parents say they’ve seen major improvements in just a week’s time.

“I don’t think he would have the ability to do a regular open swim, swimming lessons. Just the attention span that he has. He’s easily distracted. He has gone above and beyond what I’ve seen him do in private swim lessons even. And he really likes it, and I think they’re pushing him. And I think he’s doing really well in it,” said Jenica Jackson.

Even the kids say they’re learning a lot.

“I didn’t know how to swim before on my back in big pools,” said Kohner.

He even showed us how it’s done.

“You can just do this, and then stay still,” said Kohner.

Matt Poppe, who had been swimming and working with kids with disabilities for years, says he’s happy to finally bring both of his passions together.

“This has given me a lot of enthusiasm and excitement. Just knowing that it can be done, and can be done well. Yeah, I’m walking away from this with a lot of good stuff,” said Poppe.

The kids wrapped up their week-long camp earlier Friday and even celebrated their success with pictures and certificates.

Poppe says the non-profit hopes to start a year-round adaptive swimming program within the next year.

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