Human Interest

Athletic club offers special program for young adults with disabilities

Down syndrome

The town of Raynham, Massachusetts, is the home of the Raynham Athletic Club, a business with a big heart for young adults with developmental disabilities that has begun offering a program designed specifically for them. 

Katie Dyer, Raynham Athletic Club’s General Manager, is a certified Group Ex instructor and has coached with the Special Olympics for 25 years. When asked about the club’s new program, Dyer told the Taunton Daily Gazette, “I wanted to provide an opportunity for young adults with disabilities to develop their health and wellness in an engaging and fun atmosphere. [This] class allows them to improve skills, learn about different types of exercise, train and develop their communication skills.”

According to the Gazette:

The circuit training session, on Mondays, aims to “target different muscle groups with minimal rest in between.” She describes the aqua aerobics session as “a high-energy, low-impact class that gives a total body workout using water as resistance.”

Adam Harrington, a 29-year-old with Down Syndrome, participates in RAC’s new program. His mother, Amy Harrington, told the Gazette, “During COVID, everything closed down and there was nothing for him to do. And without his regular routine and not having a lot to do, we saw significant changes in his personality.”

Amy’s discovery of the new program offered at Raynham Athletic Club was a huge blessing for her son. As a parent, you need to keep them active and get them in some physical activities, because we know people like Adam, people with Down syndrome, can struggle with their weight. But he gets a great workout in that pool,” she said.

According to Dyer, the program was designed to “offer engaging, inclusive fitness classes centered around exercise, social interactions and movement,” but it has become life-changing for some participants. 

Caroline Hayes, 21, another participant in the program, found the courage to go completely underwater during one of the Wednesday morning aquatic classes. 

Dyer recalled the young lady’s experience to the Gazette:

I was throwing diving sticks out for them to find. Caroline was on the edge of the pool with her hands on her face, looking anxious. A few minutes later, she ducked herself completely under water and came up with the most amazing smile and joyful facial expression.

It was Caroline’s first time going underwater, but it wouldn’t be her last. “Each week she has continued to go under water successfully,” Dyer said.

Denise Hayes, Caroline’s mother, said, “It was great to see her do it. She had a huge smile on her face when she came back up. For her, it was a big accomplishment. She was very proud of herself.”

Hayes would love to see other gyms and training facilities begin offering programs that cater to people with disabilities.

To learn more, contact Raynham Athletic Club General Manager Kate Dyer at kate@raynhamathleticclub.com or call 508-823-5440.

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