Friday, 05 March 2010 00:00
The Jammin’ Jayhawks basketball program has completed its winter 2010 season. This non-competitive sports program for students with special needs in the Jericho School District has been a resounding success. It was initially started by Alex and Nicole Ripka, both juniors in the Jericho School District, who along with their sister Danielle, a sophomore, organized a group of high school teen volunteers to play with and coach the special needs students in athletic clinics held at the Robert Seaman Elementary School. The program is proudly co-sponsored by the Jericho Athletic Association and SEPTA. The clinics are directed by an experienced adaptive physical education instructor and are open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The high school teen volunteers work with the special needs students in a one-to-one or two-to-one ratio.
“The idea was to create a ‘team’ that did not have any pressure to win, just get to play and have fun,” said Nicole Ripka. The Jammin’ Jayhawks started last spring as a pilot basketball program with 10 special needs students and 15-20 high school volunteers. It was such a success that they expanded to include soccer last fall with 21 students enrolled and the winter basketball clinic had 23 students with special needs enrolled and 32 high school volunteers. According to Alex Ripka, there is a long list of high school students who want to volunteer next year because the feedback among them has been so positive. “We feel that this program is truly rewarding,” said Alex. “The best part is when I see kids in the hallway in school who we coach on the weekends and they give me a high five or greet me by name.”
At the conclusion of the winter season, the participants received trophies and a new basketball to take home with them along with a round of applause from all the coaches and parents. Each week the entire Jammin’ Jayhawk team, coaches and special needs students, get together in a huddle and shout “GO TEAM!” and that is what this whole program is about—team work. “We know there is a need for this program in our community and we are proud to support it,” said Harold Wanderman, a Jericho Athletic Association board member who has been very involved in supporting the Jammin’ Jayhawks since its inception.
The program was made possible with the support of the Jericho School District, Jericho SEPTA, the Jericho Athletic Association, Joel Sweetbaum, Harold Wanderman, Jon Gelbwaks, Marc Weiner, Lisa Goren and all of the terrific Jericho High School volunteers.