Growing up, fitting in is often a hurdle to overcome, but for kids with special needs, it can be even more difficult, especially when it comes to sports and team activities.
That’s why the Naperville Park District and the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association have teamed up to make sure all kids regardless of their ability, have the chance at an active and playful childhood.
“One thing you don’t even want to do is exclude someone because of their disability, and so where WDSRA comes in, is say for example we have a swim program, t-ball, any program you can think of where a special needs would want to take the program WDSRA then provides inclusion services,” said Ray McGury, Executive Director of the Naperville Park District.
The WDSRA works with nine different communities, Naperville being the largest, sending aids out to park district programs free of charge, to help children who have special needs and require an extra hand in a very important part of growing.
“Play is the basis of the first learning for children, it’s really important for all of us to play and recreate, its what makes you a well rounded wholesome person,” said Nancy Miner, Superintendent for Recreation at WDSRA.
It’s made a difference for Naperville mom Nancy Goodfellow, whose daughter Lily has down syndrome, but hasn’t let that stand in the way of being part of a team.
“It was really wonderful, because then they just started to see Lilly as Lilly and she was somebody that could do the same things that they do and she just needed a little extra help,” said Goodfellow.
Lily’s been able to get that help in her favorite activities, swimming and track, and has the medals to prove her success through the program.
“I like my coaches because I can run track by myself and I can swim. I like it because it’s awesome,” said Lily.
The Naperville Park District is continuing their efforts of inclusion with the building of their new Fort Hill Activity Center, which will have spaces, like a wheelchair basketball court dedicated to those with special needs.
They also worked with the WDSRA to bring Lekotek toys, designed for kids with disabilities, to their 95th Street center, hoping to build a stronger support group for those who need it most.
“The thing that breaks yourself the most is being made fun of for whatever reason, even if you didn’t have special needs, and now you’re different, WDSRA takes the different out of it, doesn’t make you different anymore, makes you part of the equation,” said McGury.
Health officials agree children should be active for at least 60 minutes everyday, and with the inclusion program every child has a chance at that regardless of their needs.
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