The AllOne Foundation recently awarded the Greater Carbondale YMCA a $60,000 grant in support of special needs programs taking place at the Y. Funds were distributed over two periods, with the second half of the funding presented to representatives of the YMCA on June 27th. The grant will be used to keep special needs programs free or at a reduced fee for members of the community.

The Greater Carbondale YMCA facility is fully accessible and partners with many community organizations to offer programs for those with special needs, including Friendship House, Abilities 21, the ARC of Northeast PA, Special Olympics, and the Scranton School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children. The Carbondale YMCA is committed to providing quality programs for all members of the community, including those with special needs.

“Our facility is fully handicap accessible, with a special needs changing room. We offer the A-Team as a YMCA sponsored program. We also work with families on specialized small group or private swim lessons for special needs. Our Day Camp partners with Friendship House to include children on the autism spectrum, as well as with other local service providers like NHS,” stated Heather Murphy, financial development director at the YMCA.

She continued, “We also offer free or reduced gym and pool time to organizations such as Special Olympics (swimming & tennis), Abilities 21 (swim and gym), and the ARC of NEPA (swimming). Other children with special needs are regularly integrated into our youth programs such as LEGO Robotics, Cooking, youth athletics, preschool, etc.”

The A-Team, a group of around twenty teens with autism and their parents, meets every Friday night from 6 to 8 p.m. for fun, friendship, and learning. The A-Team began several years ago when a father approached the YMCA about starting a group for youth on the autism spectrum. His son was becoming a young man and social opportunities for young adults on the spectrum were few and far between. With the patient guidance of parents and YMCA staff, a small group began meeting to swim and have pizza together monthly on a Friday night.

As the bonds between the teens grew, so did the need for this type of program. Now, this group of phenomenal youth and their families gather weekly to socialize and learn life skills. Members of the A-Team also enjoy participating in other activities together, including bowling, attending RailRiders baseball games, visiting a fire station, or eating out at a restaurant. In addition, members of the A-Team help prepare and serve the pasta dinner for runners on the night before the annual Fred Ciotti Memorial Race.

On hand to receive the grant check on behalf of the YMCA were Lauren Pizzichemi (YMCA Day Camp/Member Services), Jeremy Popiel (YMCA Aquatics Director), Matt Levine (YMCA Day Camp), Steve Durkin (Executive Director of the Greater Carbondale YMCA), and a group of young YMCA Day Campers. Presenting the grant check were John Cosgrove (AllOne Foundation Executive Director) and Jean Simonton (AllOne Foundation Executive Assistant).

For more information about the Greater Carbondale YMCA’s programs, including information about how to participate in or schedule a group in special needs or integrated programs, please contact Steve Durkin, Executive Director at (570) 282-2210.