Roman Davis: Inclusive Recreation
Roman started working at the YMCA eight years ago, in Stoughton. Since then, he has moved up to become the Executive Director of the Taunton facility, and was the catalyzing force behind Y Ability, a menu of classes for children with special needs. It began with the realization that there was a lack of support and programming for youth with disabilities. A committee was formed, one which included school professionals, counselors, teachers, parents, and YMCA staff. After several months of brainstorming and planning, with training help from Bridgewater State University, the program was formally rolled out in March of 2017.
Unlike some classes, such as swimming or dance, Y Ability is offered at no charge. Roman described it as “a free service for families who are already dealing with a lot”. Though ostensibly created for the children who attend, a hidden agenda of Y Ability was to create community among the family members of those children – their parents and siblings. Typically-developing youth are welcomed into the group, allowing brothers and sisters to participate together, and their parents, who would watch together in East Bridgewater from a viewing area above the swimming pool, made connections with one another.
The first session included 25 children. Almost exactly 12 months later, that number has nearly quadrupled, and Y Ability classes are now available at all seven Old Colony YMCA branches. While he does not take credit for taking the program from concept to creation, Roman is proud to have advanced the Y’s mission of “improving the health of mind, body and spirit of individuals and families in our communities” to include children and families with special needs.