Friday, 23 October 2009 00:00
The Jammin’ Jayhawks soccer program got off to an exciting start on Oct. 4 at the Robert Seaman School in Jericho. This was the debut of a pilot soccer program in Jericho for students with special needs. The program was organized by Jericho High School juniors Alex and Nicole Ripka and supported and underwritten by the Jericho Athletic Association and Jericho SEPTA.
This program was created by Alex Ripka with the idea that there are many students in the Jericho community who either cannot participate in or do not feel comfortable participating in already existing athletic opportunities in the district. Last year, Alex initially approached the Jericho Athletic Association with his vision of a basketball program for children with special needs and the Jammin Jayhawks “team” was formed. The pilot program was such a success that it inspired all those involved to expand the program to include soccer this fall.
The program is a skills oriented clinic with Jericho High School student volunteers coaching and playing along with the special needs students. The clinics are open to students k-12 and are being run by Severio Ford, a social worker and adaptive physical education trainer who has run similar programs at the Sid Jacobson JCC in Roslyn and who assisted with the basketball program here last spring. “I think the reason we have been so successful is because there is no competition or pressure to win. It is simply a chance for kids who have special needs to socialize with each other and have fun with the high school volunteers,” said Nicole Ripka.
This program is made possible with the support of the Jericho School District, Jericho SEPTA, the Jericho Athletic Association (JAA), Joel Sweetbaum, Harold Wanderman, Marc Weiner, Jon Gelbwaks, Lisa Goren and all of the wonderful High School volunteers.
“We are very proud and excited about this program,’ said Harold Wanderman, a Jericho Athletic Association board member. “There was a tremendous positive response from the community.”
The JAA plans to run a 6 week Jammin Jayhawks basketball program this winter. Alex and Nicole Ripka hope to be able to continue to expand this special needs program and to incorporate baseball sometime in the future.