Russell, Abby, Alex and Casey

Gordon Family YMCA

Many members at the Gordon Family YMCA may recognize Russell, Abby, Alex and Casey as familiar faces in the pool. What they may not realize is that the Y is not just a place for them to exercise, but also to interact with others in ways they would never have been able to do anywhere else. Russell, Abby, Alex and Casey have developmental disabilities that make every day a challenge to overcome. Their helpers Heather, Becky, Lacey, and Pershette credit the Y as one of the only places they can work on overcoming these daily barriers.

“The Y has definitely helped us,” says Heather. “The kids are learning to use their words and not their hands, but there are always barriers. Our job as paraeducators is to educate and expose these kids to a variety of different lifestyles. They’re people; they have hopes and dreams just like everybody else.”

The paraeducators also teach members about Russell, Abby, Alex and Casey’s disabilities and explain that that only by interacting with others in a stimulating environment can they improve their motor and social skills. Before the Y, Heather, Becky, Lacey and Pershette had difficulty getting Russell to stay in one place or stop splashing others when he was asked not to. With hard work, Russell has now become verbal, and Casey, Alex and Abby have made physical and social improvements that would have been impossible without contact with other members here. Their progress also lifts the spirits of the people who help them. 

“We are huge advocates for these kids,” says Heather. “We’re their voice because some of them literally don’t have the words to express what they want or need. That’s why we do it.”

With hard work, Russell, Abby, Alex and Casey have all improved their skills and it is thanks to the cooperation of other Y members that they are able to continue to grow.

"These kids overcome obstacles every single day. This is real, and we at the Y need to do what we can to help," says Y staff member Miriam. "Heather, Lacey, Becky and Prachette want to bring awareness to the challenges they face, and this is the perfect place to do that.”