The Sunshine Swim Camp took place from May 10th to 12th in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland. For my project I partnered with Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador to run a swim camp for athletes with intellectual disabilities and coaches from across the province. This camp was named in memory of my friend, Alyssa “Sunshine” Davis who passed away in December of 2015.
There were three main objectives for this swim camp:
1. Provide opportunities for youth with intellectual disabilities to be active and learn new skills
2. Provide opportunities for youth to be engaged in their community through Special Olympics
3. Teach coaches new swimming and coaching skills to help increase the quality of our Special Olympics swimming programs with an emphasis on rural communities
The swim camp was a weekend long event with sessions taking place Friday night, Saturday and Sunday morning and afternoon. The athletes and coaches participated four swimming sessions, a dry land training session, a nutrition session, a goal setting session and a yoga session. The coaches had a dedicated coaching session to learn about coaching athletes with intellectual disabilities.
I believe that my project was very successful. For the past six years, I have been volunteering with Special Olympics. Through my experiences as a coach, I have learned so much about teaching athletes with intellectual disabilities. I have also gained many skills including leadership, confidence, patience, empathy, and dedication. All of these skills have helped me tremendously in preparing myself for a future career. I wanted to do my part to provide more opportunities for youth to get involved in their community and learn new skills.
Everybody who participated in the camp came home with lifelong memories and new friendships. All of the athletes learned new skills and improved tremendously over the weekend. Our coaches had the opportunity to learn in a safe inclusive environment about coaching athletes with disabilities. They learned specific swimming technique and coaching tips. The coaches learned about developing practice plans and incorporating other aspects of health and wellness into their programs. In addition, each coach went home with a binder of resources to share with their other coaches and athletes.
My peers played a huge role in making my vision for this project come to life. I started by recruiting three of my peers who coach in my Special Olympics swimming program. We had meetings to discuss ideas for the swim camp, plan the sessions and menu, order t-shirts and create the resource binder. I also recruited other peers to help with grocery shopping, preparing food and organizing the t-shirts and other camp materials. I reported regularly to Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador to update them on my progress with the swimming camp.
A total of 50 people were engaged in my project. We had 18 youth athletes from five Special Olympics Clubs across the province attend. One of our clubs drove nine hours each way to attend the swim camp. Thirteen coaches and three respites from across the province attended and eleven of these people were youth. Eight volunteers helped with the registration, meals, snacks and supplies and four of these volunteers were youth. Four volunteers from local community organizations came to give presentations about goal setting, nutrition, yoga and dry land training. Myself and three other youth planned and coordinated the Sunshine Swim Camp.