The Special Needs Activity Program (SNAP) is a learning initiative to help facilitate physical activity for children and youth with physical disabilities in the Niagara region. Brock students can participate as volunteers for the program which takes place in the Ian Beddis gym.
SNAP’s main objective is to provide physical play opportunities for children with special needs. Every Thursday morning, the Walker Complex is transformed into an organized chaos by SNAP.
“A lot of the time [these students] don’t get physical education in a regular school setting. Because of their exceptionalities, it’s difficult for them to move their bodies in certain ways so they can’t participate in gym class a lot of the time. So at SNAP we set up different stations and each station tries to improve one specific motor skill,” said Vanessa Kiedrowski, coordinator of the SNAP program.
Volunteers facilitated games with puppets, throwing bean bags, crash mats, trampolines balancing blocks and tactile shapes.
The program has been running for several years now and everyone involved has come to expect certain difficulties while working a SNAP session. When an organization relies on 200 student volunteers, accommodating multiple logistical interests and working with children with varying degrees of special needs, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. However, SNAP’s operations have been running exceptionally well this year with relatively few problems.
SNAP coordinator Kristen Nagel attributes the smooth success to the quality of the volunteers who turn out every week to help facilitate the activities.
“Our volunteers are phenomenal this year. They’re so adaptable and really compassionate; they just get it. What else can I say about them? They’re wonderful and we love them,” Nagel said
“This year everyone feels like they’re very on top of everything and it even showed on our training day which went really well. The volunteers were more engaged and the coordinators are on the same page,” agreed Kiedrowski.
There appears to be an immense amount of trust and compassion within the SNAP organization. The organizers of the events are being complimented on how well the weekly events are running. The volunteers are also aware of the improvements this year and they have noticed that the program is running more moothly.
“I think the success of the program this year is due to the amazing organization and passion that the program coordinators put into every session. The planning, preparation and execution of each session takes a lot of commitment from the coordinators and volunteers,” says Tim Hart, a SNAP volunteer.
If you’re interested in possibly volunteering for SNAP, come to the Ian Beddis Gym Court 2 at 8:30 a.m. on Thursdays.
Every week, Maureen Connolly, the founder of the SNAP program, hosts a mini-training session for newcomers so anyone can join even if you missed the sign-up and training period.
Also, the hours spent volunteering for SNAP can be tracked and volunteers can even use them to satisfy criteria for a course or submit them to their Experience Plus transcript. If volunteers attend seven out of ten SNAP sessions each semester they can also get a letter of reference if needed.
“[SNAP is] an awesome chance for personal growth; you can gain problem solving, improvisation and communications skills, as well as compassion, empathy and so many more. When you’re in a job interview in the future and they ask when have you demonstrated a certain skill you can refer back to your time at SNAP,” said Nagel.
The success and positive impact of the program are also very evident.
“My sister has autism and she’s been coming since she was 5. Its had a very positive impact in her life and helped her make strides in different areas. It helped develop her personality and character; it’s a place where she can fit in, thrive and grow. It’s a place that’s constructed around her needs because usually she has to fit into a certain mold. We want to keep doing that for as many kids as possible and continue to have a positive impact on their development,” said Kiedrowski.
It’s clear that the benefits from the program are twofold, not only for the students with special needs but also for those who volunteer and gain such a wonderful experience. There are no other programs like SNAP in Ontario so we should cherish SNAP as a unique part of our school identity and a cornerstone of Brock philanthropy.
“It benefits everyone. It pushes you so far out of your comfort zone in a good way. You feel awesome about yourself afterwards,” concluded Nagel.
Assistant Internal News Editor