Expanding the Reach of Young Athletes with the YMCA

How early is too early to start with Special Olympics? Never! And our Young Athletes program proves it. 

Designed for children with and without disabilities ages two through seven, Young Athletes is the perfect community program to get kids moving, socializing, and learning the value of inclusion. It’s best as a community-driven effort, which is why we’re so thrilled to partner with the YMCA in our Western Region.

In this article, we’ll delve into this brand-new partnership and show you how to find Young Athletes programs in your region.

The Partnership

So much of Special Olympics is about connections. When we find the right person in the right place at the right time, we can accomplish anything together. When our staff met Brenna Lupo, we knew we’d made a connection that would benefit everyone involved.

As the Vice President of Education and Child Care Services, Brenna oversees activities for some of the Y’s youngest members. Her dedication and enthusiasm for this partnership has been instrumental in its success.

“We are so grateful for our partnership with Special Olympics Young Athletes and the impact it’s had on Western New York children with diverse abilities,” Lupo said. “For years, Special Olympics New York programming has provided children with special needs an opportunity to grow and learn. As a mother of a child with autism, I know first-hand how difficult it is to find appropriate programming. YMCA Buffalo Niagara’s partnership with Special Olympics New York gives more area families an opportunity for their children to grow and learn in a safe environment.”

Three days per week for eight weeks, participants meet at the Southtowns Family and Independent Health Family YMCAs to practice sport-specific skills with other children. Each session is led by experts from the Y using lessons from the official Special Olympics Young Athletes curriculum. Like all Special Olympics programming, these activities cost nothing to participants. (In fact, we’ve even covered YMCA memberships for several kids!)

We are so grateful to Brenna and her team for helping us start this program. But what exactly do our Young Athletes learn, and what makes that learning so impactful? 

The Program

In Young Athletes, kids practice sport-specific skills that help them develop into happy and healthy athletes. Furthermore, since the program includes individuals with and without disabilities, participants learn the value of inclusion and respect from a young age.

“We’re thrilled to offer some of our classic Young Athletes skills with this program,” said Michael Paglicci, Special Olympics New York’s Associate Director of Program in the Western Region. “Each week, the kids will engage in new lessons, including kicking, striking, throwing, and more.”

For a closer look at the program, check out some photos and videos below:

    Using the excellent facilities and equipment of the YMCA, these have been some of the best Young Athletes programs we’ve been able to offer so far.

    How You Can Get Involved

    Your child deserves to play. If you think they’d benefit from a Young Athletes program like we have at our Western Region YMCAs, click here to let us know. We’ll do our best to find an opportunity near you!