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  • David Ensor works with the Severna Park Community Center and Barbara Roederer to provide free swim lessons to children with special needs.
    David Ensor works with the Severna Park Community Center and Barbara Roederer to provide free swim lessons to children with special needs.

Memorial Fund Provides Free Swim Lessons For Special Needs Children

Gracie Fairfax
Gracie Fairfax's picture
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September 7, 2017

When beloved swim instructor Karen Stevens passed away in 2009, her husband, Chris Stevens — along with Severna Park Community Center’s then-director of aquatics, Maureen Kogut, and volunteer David Ensor — wanted to honor her, so they set up a memorial fund in her memory. Each year, the center hosts a kids triathlon that continues to generate money for the fund, and in 2015, Ensor worked with the center to launch a free swim lesson program for special needs children, using resources from the Karen Stevens Memorial Fund. Since Karen Stevens had a child with special needs and specialized in teaching kids with special needs, it felt to them like the perfect way to honor her.

“If someone calls me with an idea, we’re going to find a way to make it happen, and David had that vision that he wanted to serve a special needs population and even found a way to help fund it,” said Shelly Beigel, current director of the aquatics and fitness programs.

Ensor volunteers his time each Saturday to teach private lessons, and the money from the fund helps offset the cost of the pool and the additional paid swim instructor, Barbara Roederer.

Each year, Ensor and Roederer give about 200 lessons to a core group of eight to 10 kids as they want to give each child time to improve.

Over the time spent in lessons, Ensor and Roederer, both certified water-safety instructors, have seen dramatic changes in the children they teach.

“The first day, they couldn’t swim,” Ensor said of many of his students. “They wouldn’t even put their heads in the water, and now they can swim a whole entire length of the pool and they want to do the kids triathlon. They’re thinking about doing swim team.”

One mother sent an email to Ensor saying her family took their child, who participates in swim lessons, down to Florida for vacation. After taking lessons, it was the first time the parents were able to put their child in the big pool and not constantly worry about him, as he was able to swim to them from the wall of the pool.

Another young student was afraid to put his face in the water, but after encouragement from the instructor, he submerged his face in the pool and continued to do so during his next lesson.

When Stevens taught, her focus was on making sure the children were having fun, and in the same way, Ensor and Roederer seek to make their program fit the needs of the children participating rather than forcing the children to fit a set mold.

“It puts the kids first, which is what she believed in and what we believe in as well,” Ensor said.

If you are interested in registering your child for swim lessons with David Ensor or Barbara Roederer, contact the Severna Park Community Center at 410-647-5843.

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