Sarah Stoddard doesn’t like riding in the car.
Literally every bump in the road hurts. But after a trip to the pool on Sunday, Stoddard is calmer and able to handle the bumps in the road.
Thirteen-year-old Stoddard is one of the swimmers in Special Needs Swim, a volunteer program through CSU where student volunteers are paired with people from the Fort Collins community with some sort of disability for an hour of swimming fun.
Stoddard’s mother, Libby Stoddard is appreciative of the student volunteers.
“It’s cool that students want to make that commitment to the program and to the people with disabilities,” Libby Stoddard said.
The Office for Service Learning and Volunteer Programs offers students several opportunities to get involved and give back to their community.
Special Needs Swim, as well as Roots and Shoots, formally known as Campus Club, are two programs looking for student volunteers this year. These are two programs that offer volunteers the chance to work directly with children and people with disabilities.
Nathaniel Jackson, a freshman civil engineering major, is interested in volunteering while in college, but is not sure where to start.
“I would want to give back to the community and to help out other people,” he said.
In the past, Campus Club/Roots and Shoots would pair college students with children ages 8 to 12 in the Fort Collins community to do homework and play games, said Christina Turner, coordinator for Roots and Shoots. This year, with a new name, the program has a new environmental focus.
The volunteers and children meet on Sundays and pair up to build trails, go on hikes, learn civic skills, teamwork and good citizenship, Turner said.
The program has many benefits for both the child and volunteer, she said.
“It exposes you to new situations and experiences and you get to make a gigantic impact on these children’s lives,” Turner said.
Special Needs Swim volunteers and their swimming partners meet on Sundays at The Epic Pool and Ice Arena for some interactive swim time.
“We just have fun in the water, there’s no swimming lessons or structured activity,” said Audra Fenimore, coordinator for Special Needs Swim.
The Special Needs Swim program not only has fun in the pool. The volunteers also meet at EPIC pool for an hour of reflection before interacting with their swimmers.
“We have guest speakers that pertain to the program and a parent panel to talk about their experiences,” Fenimore said.
This educates the volunteer to better work with the swimmers.
Sarah Stoddard has what her mother describes as a “grocery list of mental and physical disorders” including a developmental disorder and mild cerebral palsy.
Sarah Stoddard has been attending the Special Needs Swim program with her daughter for four years and said Sarah Stoddard is much happier when swimming starts.
“She really looks forward to it, she gets upset when she can’t go,” Libby Stoddard said.
She also believes that the parent panels are helpful for volunteers to better understand a different perspective of disabled people.
“It gives them a chance to understand as a parent what it’s like to have a child with disabilities,” she said.
The volunteers learn hands-on skills needed for their future careers as well as a better understanding of the people in their community.
“You get so much out of it and it’s a great way to meet new people and benefit the community,” Fenimore said.
The Office for Service Learning and Volunteer Programs has several programs to accommodate different student interests. To get involved, stop by the office in room 27 on the lower level of the Lory Student Center to pick up an application and be matched with a program.