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SNAP, Inc. is a non-profit organization designed to improve the athletic and social abilities of special needs children through sports clinics and educational programs, while also raising awareness in the community. Our mission statement is to create a culture of acceptance for all children.
Initially, SNAP was founded to provide autistic children with sports clinics to improve their athletic and social skills, in the hopes of better integrating them into their schools. Since it’s beginning, SNAP has grown to be so much more.
Currently, SNAP has a three-pronged approach to improving the lives of children with special needs. The first is our series of sports clinics, which include basketball, baseball, soccer, swimming, tae kwon do, and even music and art programs. In our clinics, the children not only learn how to play sports, but gain confidence and self-esteem, forming strong and lasting bonds in a non-competitive environment. For many of these kids, this is the first time they have ever been able to be part of a team and win a trophy.
Our second method is through our In House Buddy Program. Two highly trained mentors are matched with one special needs child and visit their home regularly to provide friendship and homework help. This not only improves the child's social and communication skills, but also gives the mentors a closer look at the challenges faced by some of their peers.
Finally, our most recent endeavor has been reaching out to the community to provide sensitivity training and promote a culture of acceptance. For example, I trained the Morristown High School gym teachers on an adaptive physical education program, local Girl Scout Troops on awareness and acceptance of special needs, and the Millburn Police, Fire and EMC officers on how to handle various situations involving individuals with special needs. I have also been taking SNAP's message of acceptance and anti-bullying into the classroom by providing sensitivity training to schools all over New Jersey. With blindfolds, balance balls, and other techniques, I can show other schoolchildren what it is like to be blind, dyslexic, autistic, etc. so that they experience firsthand the challenges and frustrations faced by many of their classmates. I remind them that even though they may be able to take off the blindfolds or speak and read normally when the exercise is over, millions of children cannot.One aspect that really sets SNAP apart is its unique "Kids Helping Kids" approach. We pride ourselves on being able to train elementary and high school students to be mentors and volunteers for special needs children. Often, it means so much more to these children to learn and play alongside their peers.
- Alexandra Certner
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