Harrisonburg, Va., November 8, 2011-The James Madison swimming and diving team partnered with assistant kinesiology professor Dr. Tom Moran and physical education students to host a Project C.L.I.M.B. event at the Godwin pool last Wednesday, Nov. 2.
Project C.L.I.M.B. is a program developed by Dr. Moran in which JMU physical education students are paired with children who have disabilities. The JMU students create individualized programs for their respective mentees in order to develop the children's motor skills. The programs provide these children with an recreational activity outlet when they are unable to participate in local sports teams.
Swimming and diving head coach Samantha Smith had a chance meeting with Dr. Moran on campus and after discussion, realized the likelihood of having the team work with the children and students of Project C.L.I.M.B. "We realized there were two needs: First, for the children in this group to have a swimming experience. Second, our team to make a contribution to the community in our most comfortable setting-the water! It was a perfect fit," said Smith.
The swimming and diving Dukes have worked with Moran and Project C.L.I.M.B. multiple times in the past but the most recent event was approximately an hour long. The participants were divided into groups consisting of a mentor from the physical education department, a mentee (the child) and two members of the swim team. The mentors were responsible for working through their prepared lesson with the mentee and the swimmers were responsible for adding their input and encouraging the mentees.
"Watching the kids transform in a matter of 30 minutes from being afraid to get into the pool to splashing around was an awesome feeling. Although it was a short time, you can't help but get attached to the kids," commented Melissa Helock, senior captain of the swim team.
While in the pool, the group worked with the children to blow bubbles, float, kick and essentially become comfortable in the water. Based on their skill sets, some mentees were able to swim and jump off the diving boards while other younger participants played in the diver's hot tub.
"I think the biggest thing that the team takes away from Project C.L.I.M.B. is the opportunity to introduce others to something that we love and has taken us so far in life and new places. Learning to swim can really open up a world of different experiences," said senior captain Samantha Holland.
"We are always eager to be involved in the community and this was such a unique experience because we could help in an area that we are experts in-swimming! It isn't very often that the swimmers and divers get to bring the community into their own home and make a difference like this program allows us to do," said Coach Smith.
The swimming and diving team plans to maintain its relationship with Dr. Moran and Project C.L.I.M.B. The team worked with Dr. Moran's program last spring and over the summer and are hoping to invest in the mentees again over the holidays.
"The team loves working with the kids and every time we finish, the women on the team ask when we can do it again. While it is nice to feel like we can make a difference, it is also amazing how much we receive from these children every time we interact with them. It truly is a win-win situation," remarked Coach Smith.