By Stacey Dresner
SPRINGFIELD – When Eric and Andrea Klanderman moved their family to Longmeadow from Rhode Island last August, they found a wonderful resource for their 7-year-old son Jacob, who has special needs – the Springfield JCC’s Kehillah special needs program.
Jacob began taking karate, going to music and Zumba classes, and going on bowling trips. He also received an adaptive bike through Kehillah’s Project Ride, and last summer attended Kehillah’s inclusion
“We were extremely excited to learn about Kehillah,” Eric Klanderman said. “Having the inclusion camp around really meant a lot to us. Jacob really flourished at the JCC. He became more talkative, he loved to wear the JCC shirt. It was really great.”
To be able to provide great special needs programs for more kids like Jacob, the Springfield JCC’s Kehillah program will hold its first “Walk and Roll Tour.” The fundraiser will be held on Sunday, May 31 with registration beginning at 1 p.m. The walk will start at 1:45 p.m. departing from the JCC, 1160 Dickinson St.
“This is the first time we’ve done a walk to support our Kehillah special needs programs,” said Linda LaPointe, coordinator of Kehillah. “It is a one-mile walk and it is all accessible, so you can walk, ride your bike, or use your wheelchair. There will be activities upon returning with refreshments, music and games. We’ll have kickball, face-painting and other carnival-type games. It will be very family-friendly.”
The Walk and Roll will take participants down Porter Lake, which is off of both Converse and Dickinson streets. Participants will take the loop at Porter Lake and return to the back of the JCC parking lot. ‘It is all flat and accessible; if people want to “walk and roll’ more, they can go around the loop twice or three times. For some of our walkers going around the loop one time is going to be a big deal,” LaPointe said.
The Springfield JCC funds Kehillah, so this fundraiser will raise funds to allow more individuals with special needs to take part in Kehillah’s various programs.
“The event will support all of our programs – our inclusion camp; Project Ride, our adaptive bike program; all of our afterschool and weekend programs. So basically it is to support all of our special programs with a focus on scholarships and support,” LaPointe said.
The Kehillah program has grown tremendously in the past few years. And as its programming has grown, interest from the special needs community has also grown, LaPointe said.
“We started the program seven years ago with swimming lessons, a social group and a family group but we only had five classes. Now we run, on a regular basis, about 17 classes a week. We have inclusion camp, we have special needs camp, we have Project Ride, Best Buddies, Fitness Buddies. For years we didn’t do adult programming, but two years ago we began an adult program. So the program has just grown so much.”
LaPointe said that they hope to raise $20,000 at the Walk and Roll to help financially strapped families and individuals be able to partake in Kehillah programming.
“There are a lot of kids who need financial support in order to come to our programs, but it is not just families who need support. There are also individual adults who need support because they don’t have the resources after a certain age. Many are living off their Social Security. So we really need to do a fundraiser to be able to help all of the people who want to come to our programs.”
“It is desperately needed and greatly appreciated,” said Janice Greenberg, a member of the Kehillah committee and a longtime JCC member. “And it’s not just for participants, but for their families and caregivers who can connect to these programs. It also gives the JCC a level of expertise so that their staff is trained to accommodate a lot of different kinds of disabilities. It also supports the local school, since it provides a place where students can go to get appropriate summer programming, and also just have fun like other kids. I can’t say enough good things about it.”
The Walk and Roll is sponsored by The Bernon Family. Community sponsors who provide year-round support for Kehillah are The Korn Family and the Sadye Silver Fund, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Health New England and Baystate Health.
LaPointe said that besides the support received from the Springfield JCC and committed sponsors, she and her staff apply for grants to help fund some of Kehillah’s programming. But the Walk and Roll will be a way for the entire community to help out.
“We wanted something that will be a regular fundraiser so that everyone in the community, whether they give $5 or $100, could participate at whatever level they feel they can and can feel a part of this and that they are contributing,” she said.
Kehillah and other JCC member families are forming teams to participate in the walk, but individuals from around the community are welcome to sign up and participate by going to www.Kehillah-sjcc.org/walk-n-roll and setting up their FirstGiving fundraising page.
The Klandermans will do the Walk and Roll as a family. Jacob might ride his adaptive bike.
“It is a fantastic program. Every day when I come home from work, we go for a bike ride,” Eric said. “Without that bike he really would not be able to get around like the other kids; he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the other kids.”
Klanderman is thrilled that next year, because of the adaptive bike from Project Ride, Jacob will hopefully be able to bike to school like many other kids in Longmeadow. “Without project Ride he would be unable to do that,” Klanderman said.
LaPointe said that the JCC’s fitness center is doing special 90-minute classes this month, during which trainers and other members will talk about the Kehillah program, what it has meant to them, and encourage members to participate in the Walk and Roll or make a donation.
Klanderman said that he thinks that the Walk and Roll will do more than raise funds, it will also raise awareness.
“It is important to raise awareness for kids with special needs and to make sure these kids are included,” Klanderman said. “I think there are many kids in the area who are not participating and by raising awareness of the program it will help the JCC, the families and will provide a network of support. It will be great to meet some of these parents, create a support network and to see our kids thrive.”
“The Walk is open to everybody,” LaPointe added. “We are hoping everybody will come who has been touched by a person with special needs, or touched by the JCC programs, or if they are just a caring individual who wants to show support to people with different abilities.” n
Jacob Klanderman on the bike
he received from Project Ride.
Jacob Klanderman on a
Kehillah bowling trip