A Simple Idea That Blossomed
The story of ShowMe Aquatics began with a brother and two sisters who wanted to spend more time together having fun. While that may not sound like an unusual thing for children to do, Jim, Nan, and Sue Shaefer grew up with far fewer opportunities to play together than most siblings. Jim and Nan were born with cerebral palsy, a life-long condition that affects body movement and muscle coordination. Finding activities they all enjoyed and in which they could all participate was not easy. One thing they all enjoyed was swimming, so Jim, Nan, Sue and Sue's friend Bess Maxwell began going to their local YMCA on Saturday mornings to swim. It didn't take long for them to realize that Nan and Jim could move more freely and more safely in the pool than they could out of the water. The resistance of the water cushioned and smoothed erratic movements while the buoyancy of the water softened the effects of gravity, allowing them to engage in movements and actions that could be dangerous on dry land. Before long, some friends of theirs heard about the Saturday swims, and they began to come as well. Within a year, the group had grown to 9 regulars at these Saturday morning swim sessions.
As more people began seeking the health benefits and fun of water-based activities, Claudia King, aquatics program director for the St. Charles County YMCA, began referring people who required more support to the ShowMe program. Claudia feels that the philosophy of mixing people with and without disabilities has helped develop the Y's pool into a multi-use resource that supports a diverse group of users. On most any day, the pool users include families swimming and playing together, a water exercise class, people lap swimming for health, and people just enjoying being in the water while they talk with friends. People of all ages and abilities brought together by the fun, health benefits, and socialization opportunities a community pool provides. The success of the accessible aquatics program has spread throughout the Y, which is now working to make the fitness area more accessible and has begun to develop other integrated activities, including a gymnastics program.