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Sensory Sharks, Mermaid Program Makes Return
shark and mermaid
Sensory Sharks and Mermaids pilot program for children with special aquatic needs was a success last year. The City of Riverbank is planning to offer it up once again for families. Sponsorships and donations are currently being accepted to help offset the cost for participants. Photo Contributed

The water – whether it is a swimming pool, lake or river – can be very dangerous and even more so for those that do not know how to swim. With thoughts of safety and some fun in the pool, Riverbank Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick along with Alyssa Bauman created a sensory program at the community pool for youth with special needs.

They were able to offer the program free last year to families due to the fact that it was a pilot program. Currently, it is unclear if there will be a cost for the program this year; however, Bauman is trying to offset those possible fees with an online raffle, Facebook fundraiser and sponsors. The safety-based swim program requires one on one instruction so one of the concerns is having enough staff on hand to meet the demand.

“We are currently asking for sponsors to help cover the cost of giving 35 children individual and specialized instruction,” stated Bauman. “Any help is greatly appreciated. Please be a part of keeping our children safe and happy this summer.”

Registration for the program is closed but donations and sponsorships will be accepted until July 1. Fitzpatrick explained that if everything goes as planned the program will begin on July 12 which will hopefully be free or at a minimal cost to the families.

The program would be held at the community pool mid-mornings on Friday and Saturday. Once sponsorships and donations have been calculated, city officials will advise whether the program is free or if there will be a fee.

“We would like to still meet the need if we can since these families really want the program and our staff loved doing it,” added Fitzpatrick. “The program is set up with an environment that works well for the kids and parents. The staff is trained and knows as much as possible about the participant prior to the first class. Adaptive equipment, communication aids and other sensory aids are used to make the class fun.”

There are interested families in surrounding areas that have expressed interest in the program as well, including Modesto, Salida, Oakdale, Turlock and Ceres.

“The goal of the program is to have fun, be in a comfortable, supportive environment and learn the feeling of being in the water without a lifejacket and hopefully becoming familiar enough in the water to get out or keep afloat if they were to fall in,” explained Fitzpatrick. “This takes time but every lesson helps. Our ultimate goal would be for our participants to learn to swim and even join our swim team someday.”

For those interested in sponsorships or donations, contact Bauman at 209-614-1168 or email and use #sensorysharksandmermaids to find the campaign online.