Arts & Entertainment

Edison Documentary: ‘Swim Team’ Chronicles Debut of the Jersey Hammerheads

Credits: Nicole Chan
Credits: Nicole Chan
Credits: Nicole Chan
Credits: Nicole Chan

EDISON, NJ – Filmed on location over the course of a year in Edison, Perth Amboy and other towns in Middlesex County, NJ, “Swim Team” is a feature length documentary film chronicling the debut season of the Jersey Hammerheads, a competitive “Swim Team” made up of children and teens on the autism spectrum.

It's a home grown story with universal themes of coming of age, coping with adversity and finding hope when a community comes together and creates its own solutions.

Participation in sports is a central feature of children's lives but opportunities for autistic kids are limited.

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"As a mother, I was so personally inspired by the “Swim Team” families,” Lara Stolman, producer-director said. “I knew their stories needed to be shared with the world."

“Swim Team” begins with one Edison, New Jersey family circumventing the lack of opportunities for their son by creating their own team. Tapping into an unmet need, within weeks the team is 17 strong.

Edison residents, Mike and Maria McQuay founded the team last year for their son, also named Michael Jr. Michael Jr., who is autistic, had been competing in the Special Olympics for a few years and when he was picked for Team NJ, to represent the state at the national games last year, the McQuay’s decided to start their own team to train him and others like him to compete in Special Olympics competitions and more.

"I got involved with the swimming for Michael, and then it turned into more than that will all the other kids. You're giving kids an opportunity,” Mike McQuay, Jersey Hammerheads coach said. “At one time or another all of our kids have been ostracized and for them to be a part of a team is unbelievable."

Most athletes are Asian and Hispanic boys, underserved in autism intervention and underrepresented in media.

The all-female production team established a trusted relationship with the Jersey Hammerheads families and was granted access to film in their homes, in their schools, at the YMCA where they practice and at the Special Olympics competitions where they competed.

What results is an intimate exploration of the everyday struggles and extraordinary triumphs that families raising children with autism can experience.

“Swim Team” was just named Indiewire's Project of the Month for January. The prize is a creative consultation from our Project of the Month partner, Tribeca Film Institute. "Swim Team" will also be in the running for 2015 Project of the Year.

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