Giving Back

Scarlet Knights Make a Splash at Somerset Hills YMCA Program for Children with Autism

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Credits: Michael Raynes
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Credits: Michael Raynes
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Credits: Michael Raynes
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Credits: Michael Raynes
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Basking Ridge, NJ, March 19, 2015 – For the 10th consecutive year, Rutgers University football players volunteered at a Somerset Hills YMCA program for children with autism and their families, scoring lots of points as they played with kids, posed for photos and left behind many happy smiles.
Saturdays in Motion is a free program sponsored by Somerset Hills YMCA that invites children on the spectrum and their siblings to come to the Y twice monthly for recreational activities that include gymnastics, swimming and games. Teen-age volunteers work with the kids one- on-one.
As a cause-driven organization with a focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, Somerset Hills YMCA is proud to offer this program that allows children with special needs to get exercise, socialize and have fun with friends.
Michelle Barkemeyer, whose daughter Jennifer, 7, regularly attends Saturdays in Motion said the program offers her daughter a place where she feels welcome and included. She said she was thrilled to see Scarlet Knights such as Brandon Arcidiacono, Derrick Nelson, JJ Denman, Hayden Rettig, Julian Pinnix-Odrick and Logan Lister come out and support the program.
“Watching Jennifer interact with the Rutgers students was an amazing gift. She laughed and played, the way all children should, with the ‘big kids’ from college. She loved every minute of their attention,” said Ms. Barkemeyer, a Somerset Hills YMCA member. “I’m so grateful that these players joined forces with the young volunteers who lead the program at the Y and shared their time and spirit with the many children who participate in Saturdays in Motion.”
In the pool, football players pretended to be sea monsters, to the delight of children who chased them. “All of the players played along exceedingly well. It may not seem like much, but the smiles I saw on the faces of the little kids were the best thing I have seen as a volunteer. For these kids, it’s the little things that count,” said Ryan Buchser, a high school student and volunteer.
Art Raynes, a Somerset Hills YMCA board member, began the program more than 20 years ago at a time when there were few services for children with autism. Mr. Raynes has a son on the spectrum.
Mr. Raynes, a Rutgers alumnus, said he approached Rutgers University 10 years ago, asking if the team might send some players to volunteer in the program. Two weeks later, they showed
up and they have, without fail, brought their energy and enthusiasm to Saturdays in Motion every year since.
About the Somerset Hills YMCA, a branch of Somerset County YMCA
The Y is the nation’s leading nonprofit committed to strengthening the community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. At Somerset County YMCA, we believe everyone, regardless of age, income or background, should have the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. For information about Somerset County YMCA and financial assistance, visit us at http://www.somersetcountyymca.org.

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