The participants learned basic dribbling, shooting, and one-on-one skills in basketball. The Special Needs program is in its fifth year and provides clinics in basketball, tennis, golf, bocce, baseball, and track and field, as well as field trips to Liberty Science Center and picnics in the park. The group also has a holiday party at Christmas.
Special Needs coordinator James Adams collaborates with various professional athletes including Janet Roberts of the U.S. Tennis Association, professional basketball player Jerry Walker, and soccer player Elsie Mendosa to sponsor clinics. Bloomfield recreation director Anthony Nesto sponsored a hockey clinic last year.
"Sports give a sense of self discipline that is needed to deal with everyday life that isn't learned from textbooks," said Ashante-Timoll, co founder of SPICES, a non-profit organization. Tagged with nicknames Sassy, Smartie and Senior Spice, the SPICES women incorporate humor into the program to enhance the learning experience. SPICES holds sports and academic clinics throughout Hudson County.
Adams organizes the clinics and incorporates events and activities the kids want to do. Sometimes they have Board Game Day, movie mania, a video game challenge, or the group goes bowling.
"It is very good that the town has programs for special needs children to take part in," commented Linda Kitrys, whose son Robert is a participant.
Adams was appointed by the mayor and council to direct the program. The majority of the kids who participate have been going to the clinics since they began five years ago.
"I can see a difference in my son's socialization skills, attention and self discipline from what he learns in the program," Kitrys said.
The kids make new friends and learn healthy competition. "My son likes it. That's the most important thing," said Kevin Glavin, who also has a son in the program. Glavin said his son is having a lot of fun and learn new things.
The real proof is in the kids.
"I like basketball," Kevin, 15 years old, said. "I'd like to get a team like on the NBA."
Karissma Patel said she's been coming to recreation for a long time. "I'm a good basketball player. I like to dribble the ball and get it in the basket," she said.
Karissma also said she would be just playing around her house if she didn't come to the center. Her favorite clinic is on game day and they play Uno.
Robert Kitrys said, "Basketball is fun. I like James. I know him really well. I'm happy that he comes to play with us all the time."
Another element Adams makes available for the children is the opportunity to participate in the Olympic challenge and the Garden State Games, where they participate competitively with children from all over the county.
Adams explained, "The Olympic Challenge is a set of competitions that are scored and were developed for Special Needs programs. It includes running, throwing softball, kicking a ball for distance, basketball shootout, and Frisbee throw."
Adams explained the Olympic Challenge is conducted once a year and the participants are rewarded with prizes. Traditionally athletes can participate in the Garden State games and separate divisions are set up in tennis and track and field categories.
Traditionally athletes can participate in the Garden State games, while separate divisions are set up in tennis and track & field. The Secaucus Special Needs program is funded through a grant. Clinics and other activities are held every other Saturday morning at the Recreation Center on Front Street. The program runs all year and is free to Secaucus residents.
Anyone who is interested can register at the Recreation Center at 150 Front St. or call James Adams at (732) 512-1857.