Bath Area Family YMCA launching inclusive program in partnership with Special Olympics Maine
The Bath Family YMCA in partnership with Special Olympics Maine and the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation, are providing a new opportunity to Maine Citizens with intellectual disabilities through the Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Club. The Unified Champion Club is dedicated to promoting social inclusion by pairing people with and without intellectual disabilities through shared recreational sports and activities. A simple principle that playing and competing together creates a quick path to friendships and understanding. The Unified Champion Club focuses on building an inclusive climate that emphasizes collaboration, engagement, and mutual respect for all people regardless of their abilities.
Sawyer Boulette, Director of Unified Champion Clubs at Special Olympics Maine, first launched the program at the Boys & Girls Club & YMCA of Greater Waterville at the Alfond Youth & Community Center (AYCC). Simultaneously, Susan Scacchi, executive director of the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation, was searching for an avenue to spread the Masons’ culture of volunteerism and community building across Maine in an impactful way. The partnership between Special Olympics Maine, the YMCA and the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation was established to ensure ongoing viability.
“We are beyond grateful for the strong partnership that we have developed with the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation. Through their funding and volunteer efforts along with our community partners, this program has had a powerful impact on many lives, opened hearts, and changed minds about people with intellectual disabilities. They are no longer sitting on the sidelines. Instead, they are being seen as members of the community.” stated Sawyer Boulette, Director of Unified Champion Clubs at Special Olympics Maine.
In just two short years, this strong collaboration profoundly moved the needle for inclusivity in the Central Maine area. The Unified Champion Club at The Alfond Youth & Community Center soared to 140 participants and now offers over 25 recreational sports and activities. Because of its success, the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation has offered additional funding to assist in expanding the program into other Maine communities.
“We are all individuals, with unique hopes, dreams, and challenges but it is when we come together as a community where the possibilities are endless. The Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation is proud to be a catalyst in making Maine communities stronger and more inclusive for all,” expressed Scacchi.
The program at the Bath YMCA will cater to adults 18 and older and the initiative will fill the need in the community as part of the YMCA’s “for all” mission to promote the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities.
“Morse High School has national banner recognition for championing their Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Schools program. This Unified Champion Club at the Bath Area YMCA will serve as an extension of unified school sports. Now, when students graduate, they have an opportunity to participate in inclusive activities and continue to build lifelong friendships with members in the community,” adds Boulette.
“The Bath Area Family YMCA is excited to launch these innovative new programs through the Unified Champion Club,” says Deb Young, COO of the Bath Area Family YMCA. “Our partnership with Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation and Special Olympics of Maine will enable the YMCA to leverage our existing resources and programming to better reach adults 18 and older with intellectual disabilities and help forge strong inclusive relationships within our community.”
The Bath Area Family YMCA, which serves Sagadahoc, Cumberland, and Lincoln Counties, will start its Unified Champion Club on October 31 with ongoing inclusive activities at their location. Programs will include pickleball, a walking club, and climbing wall opportunities. The program is not exclusive to Special Olympics Maine athletes and is open to all members 18 and older in the community.
To volunteer, participate, and for more information, visit the Bath Area Family YMCA website at bathymca.org or contact Joe MacMahan, Bath YMCA Program Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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