After swim instructor Karen Stevens passed away from cancer in 2009, her husband partnered with the Severna Park Community Center to create a memorial fund and swim lesson program in her honor.
Benefitting youth with special needs, the Children In Need program has made a huge impact in the community, helping kids like Aaron and Owen Moyer.
In September, the brothers became the first Children In Need participants to compete in the Karen Stevens Memorial Kids Triathlon, with their effort serving as an inspiration to other children looking ahead to 2020.
This year, Aaron and Owen made big strides while competing.
“Aaron has worked very hard to develop his swimming skills,” said his mom, Bretagne Moyer. “It was a wonderful feeling to see him on the pool deck with all the other competitors.”
David Ensor, lead instructor for Children In Need and coordinator of the Karen Stevens Memorial Kids Triathlon, has put an immense amount of time and energy into the program. According to Ensor, Aaron swam 16 lengths of the center’s competition pool in a mere 14 minutes and 33 seconds. When he started swim lessons with Children In Need, he was able to swim only a few strokes before having to stop.
In large part, this achievement has to do with Ensor’s training.
“His encouragement and enthusiasm create an environment in which [children] can truly thrive,” Bretagne said.
By using the right verbal and physical cues during instruction, Ensor helped the Moyers develop not only swimming skills but also listening skills. Ensor has helped the boys in more ways than this, though.
“Aaron has benefited in many ways, both physically and mentally,” Bretagne said. “Swimming has kept Aaron in great physical condition, which was particularly important this summer as he prepared to have spinal surgery.”
Swimming builds endurance, keeps up the heart rate and takes stress off the body, which would normally be detrimental in more popular exercise methods (like using a treadmill).
“It is the best physical therapy,” Bretagne said.
Moreover, swimming has provided the boys with purpose. According to Bretagne, “the greatest benefit Aaron has had from the program is that it has broadened his life by giving him a sense of belonging.”
Putting a child’s mind at ease, especially given the stereotypes and judgments amidst cognitive delays, is something that can’t be measured in meters or seconds.
The Children In Need program, as well as the Karen Stevens Memorial Kids Triathlon, have offered hundreds of lessons to children, keeping them at the top of their mental and physical game. Currently, about 10 children are enrolled in the Children In Need program, which provides more than 130 lessons per year.
To see if the Children In Need program appeals to your child, contact the Severna Park Community Center at 410-647-5843.