Kids2Kids pairs special needs kids with neurotypical mentors for golfing activities at the Essex Golf Center in Roseland. Video by Bob Karp.
The Morristown High School pool filled with a roaring crowd Saturday, but with a twist! Kids2Kids brought swimmers with special needs and their teen mentors together for a biannual swim meet.
Mendham senior Zoe Antonius noted how many success stories there are, from swimmers learning to dive in at the start of their race to those who completed their first competitive lap on Saturday, like 12-year-old Erik Gaita, who has Down syndrome.
“There is no judgement here and my son can be active and involved in a sport at his level,” Erik’s mother Dawn Gaita said in a press release. “There is so much peer interaction and no competition to participate. My son is accepted and not cut because of his inability or speed.”
The K2K meet is like any other, with starters, judges, and heats of freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke. The unique aspect is the mentors lining the edge of the Morristown pool, and therapists monitoring behaviors and actions.
Mountain Lakes senior Juliana Scerbo, a K2K volunteer for seven years, said the best thing about the meet is “seeing all the new faces of swimmers each year and the joy on parents’ faces as they witness their child’s abilities.”
Every Saturday, swimmers with special needs are paired with mentors who teach mechanics, and help them conquer their fear of the water.
“This is what is possible when teens use their talent and empathy,” said K2K founder Dave May, whose son Ryan has autism and swims for Morristown.
“The program could not exist without all of our teen mentors who give so much of their time to share with our special needs kids. As a parent of a special needs child, we have to work so hard to find the right environment and appropriate programs for our kids to participate in. Kids2Kids has filled this void.”