The Kingston Y Penguins is a swim team of young people with physical disabilities and their able-bodied siblings.
73 FB users likes Kingston Y Penguins, set it to 35 position in Likes Rating for Kingston, Ontario in Non-profit organization category
Who Are The Y Penguins? Originally posted in 2006 "Picture the smile on the face of a young boy who is asked to join a competitive sports team, when, up to this point in life, his disability has left him sitting on the sidelines on every playing field he has ever been on," says Vicki Keith. "The Kingston Y Penguins Aquatic Club was created to help find a place for children like this, to participate and belong." As team member Jenna Lambert points out, being a part of the Kingston Y Penguins has "helped me build self confidence, leadership skills and much, much more. I have learned to develop a strong work ethic, independence, patience, focus on others and goal setting. The YMCA's programs have helped me to accept my disability. They have helped teach me that, just because I walk funny, that doesn't make me less of a human being. To me, this realization and the many other benefits that are associated with the YMCA programs, make my experience with them a life changing one." Since the inception of sport for disabled programs at the Kingston Family YMCA, the young people participating have proved over and over again that because of their determination and dedication each and every one of them, will continue to accomplish what many people believe is impossible." The programs are punctuated by the laughter and fun that seem to define every YMCA program. Yet, in the midst of the giggles lie important life lessons, which children learn through the conduit of athletics. "Competitive sport teaches skills on how to live a successful, productive, happy life. It helps young people develop a strong work ethic, organizational skills, and the importance of teamwork," explains Vicki. One of the most important aspects of the Kingston Y Penguins is that the young people who participate, are completely accepting of other children with physical differences and disabilities. The team is a place where these children can immediately fit in. Their physical differences seem to disappear, and they are accepted for who they are. The Kingston Y Penguins is a safe place, where, these children have found a place to belong, and a chance to be a part of a team. Now, for the first time in many of their young lives, they are free to explore and focus on their abilities, not their disability. In the 5 years the Kingston Y Penguins have been in existence, we have seen some spectacular results. Yes we have had 4 athletes achieve Provincial standards and 3 athletes achieve National standards, but those are not the most spectacular achievements we have seen. The most spectacular achievements are those that to many who live in an able-bodied world might seem mundane, until they know the full story. Michael went out to play - an everyday occurrence for most children, but until joining the Kingston Y Penguins, something that wasn't possible for Michael. Since joining the team, his confidence has grown, his physical ability has improved, and now it is not uncommon to see Michael giggling, and rough housing with his peers in the pool. Brian swam a length of the pool. Brian was born with Duchene's Muscular Dystrophy, a disease that will slowly sap his strength, but in the pool he has freedom to move independently. As he finds walking harder and harder to do, and becomes more reliant on his wheelchair, his swimming is getting stronger, his confidence is growing, and he is seeing possibilities and not impossibilities. Kaitlyn wrapped a towel around Chad's shoulders and sat with him to help keep him warm. A natural thing for a child to do, but if you are a child with a physical disability, you are usually perceived as the person in need of assistance. Seldom do these children have the opportunity to help others. On the Y Penguins, as in life, everybody has different abilities. The children often find opportunities to offer assistance. As the realization develops in these children that they have something to give to others, their confidence and self esteem begin to grow, and a compassion and understanding for others is cultivated. Sisters Natalie and Jenna headed off to swim practice together. A normal occurrence in many families, but something that was not possible for families with children with physical disabilities in our area until the Kingston Y Penguins came into existence. Now Natalie and Jenna can train together, compete with each other and participate in an experience that will help them grow as sisters and friends. Swimming has become a passion that Natalie and Jenna share. It is something that has brought them closer, and allowed them to develop a healthy level of respect and admiration for each others abilities. Eva ran a 1500 meter race at school. An admiral achievement for any 11 year old child! When Eva was born she weighed under a pound, and the doctors didn't believe that she would be able to survive outside of the hospital environment. They explained to Eva's parents that she would always be dependent and would be restricted to a wheelchair for mobility. Her parents believe that a major part of her success in developing independence, as well as her physical improvements is due to her participation on the Y Penguins. When a child joins a sports team we know that as well as developing the skills and strategies of the game, that they will develop many life skills. This is doubly true for children with disabilities. No matter how positive and supportive the parents are, a child with a physical disability will always be aware that they are unable to do certain things that able-bodied children can do. Take for instance one day the spring of 2001 when Eva's mom Lorie, walked into Eva's room to find Eva sitting on the floor crying, and pounding her legs as hard as she could with her fists. She looked up at her mom with tears streaming down her face and said "I just can't make my legs do what I want them to do. Why won't they work for me?" Her mother's heart ached as she searched for the answer that might heal her daughter's pain. Thankfully that was the same time that Vicki was developing the Y Penguins at the Kingston Family YMCA. Eva joined the team, learned how to swim, and is one of our athletes who is learning about her abilities. Every athlete on the Kingston Y Penguins has an amazing story, each one has achieved new heights and are continuing to strive. So many of our athletes have achieved beyond their families wildest dreams, and they are just at the beginning of their journey. I think a quote from Eva as she jumped into the pool for the very first time embraces the attitude of each and every athlete as they continue to strive and succeed. "Watch out, here I come." The Y Penguins slogan is Penguins Can Fly. We believe nothing is impossible, and we know that this is true, because day after day, at the Kingston Family YMCA these children are making what others deem impossible, possible.
Creating A New Program In April 2001, Vicki Keith moved to Kingston, Ontario with her husband John Munro. Vicki's dream was to Develop a sport and recreational program for children with physical disabilities in an area that had very little to offer these kids. The eastern Ontario region was actually referred to as the "Black Hole" in sport for disabled by participants and organizations across the rest of the province. Vicki decided that the best place to start, was with what she new best, and decided to develop a competitive swim team for children with physical disabilities and their able-bodied siblings. To raise awareness for this goal, Vicki and her husband John decided that they would complete a 32-km tandem crossing of Lake Ontario. The successful swim helped raise some initial seed money to help develop these projects, but more importantly, it raised awareness. Vicki was contacted by a number of families who had children with disabilities who were looking for somewhere to participate. All that was needed now in order to get the program up and running was a facility. The aquatics director at the Kingston Family YMCA contacted Vicki at this point and said, "We can't offer you money, but we would love to support you in some way. Could we offer you some pool time?" With that offer, a swim team was born. The swim team developed quickly to 7 swimmers. Now the team boasts over 30 swimmers. Many of the children joined the team as complete non-swimmers. Originally, Vicki ran private lessons for the new swimmers and coached the more advanced swimmers in the skills of competitive swimming. Today, the Y Penguins have numerous volunteers working with the novice Penguins. Volunteers come from everywhere; senior Y Penguins, Queen's University and St Lawrence College Students, and Kingston youth who are trained instructors. Within two years of the inception of the program, the YMCA of Kingston had seen the amazing accomplishments of the children in this program, and agreed to support the development of this and other programs focused on the needs of children with physical disabilities and their able-bodied siblings. The swim team now became known as the Kingston Y Penguins Aquatic Club. Vicki's husband John Munro watched the work that Vicki was doing, and the amazing accomplishments of the young people. He decided that he wanted to do something for these amazing children, so after a year of training, he set out with what he referred to as the Y Knot Marathon (his story is told in another post) .
Day 3 at Can Am's: The final day of the meet saw the swimmers rally to achieve best performances. Their bodies are sore and tired, but it didn't stop them from stepping up and getting the job done. Harley had a beautiful 400 free where he matched his personal best time while maintaining the technique he has been working on since September. Chris had an exciting 50 back where he raced neck and neck with an Australian and an American swimmer. The Aussie out touched Chris, but it was really exciting to watch the battle. Robert had a solid 50 back placing second in finals. Nik won gold in his 50 back and 100 fly. The 100 fly was especially rewarding to watch as Nik has been working to pull his fly technique together, and he was able to do that in both his 50 and 100 fly. Cassidy swam a personal best in her 50 back placing 3rd, and improved 3 seconds from heats to finals on her 200 free. Everyone went out to celebrate with burgers, fries and ice cream (a perfect way to acknowledge the months/years of training and work that has gone into these performances). Thanks to all the officials who volunteered their time to make this event a success for the athletes, especially to our own Teri Bolton who flew out at her own expense to share her expertise.
Day 2 at Can Am's: The birthday boy Harley had a great day with a PB in his 50 free and an excellent 200 IM with great technique and an improvement of 6 seconds from prelims to finals. Nik had a strong 200 IM and achieved a PB in his 50 free and placed 2nd in finals in the 50 free. Robert swam 3 events today. He placed 2nd in the 50 free and 100 back and first in the 50 breast with a personal best of over 6 seconds. Chris had a strong 50 free placing 2nd while maintaining his technique. Cassidy placed 4th in both her races achieving a best time by almost a whole second in the 50 free and 2.5 seconds in the 100 back. We had a great time celebrating Harley's birthday. There is nothing better than celebrating your birthday with team mates and friends!
Day 1 at Can Am's: Cassidy achieved a second and third place finish and a personal best in her 100 breast by 8 seconds. Robert won a gold medal and achieved a best time in his 100 free by 4 seconds. Harley placed 4th with an outstanding 100 free and achieved a personal best time. Nik Tolgyesi won gold with a seasonal best time in his 50 fly. Chris Tsonos showed how tough he was by keeping a positive attitude in the face of challenges. He placed 2nd in both of his events while maintaining a focus on technique (knowing that technique is everything in the long term picture). It was a great first day of the meet. Go Penguins!
Hi All, A new swimming season is almost here. I hope you have had a great summer to this point and are planning some more summer fun before a new school year and swim season is upon us. I am very excited to have a number of new swimmers joining us, so a very warm welcome to them. I will be on vacation from Monday, August 19th until the start of the swim season, so I wanted to send out some information now to make sure everyone knew what the plan is for the start of the season. Our first practice will be Wednesday, September 11th. Please be sure that you register for the Y Penguins as well ensuring your swimmer is a member of the Kingston YMCA by September 13th. There are 2 swim times this year. Some swimmers will swim from 3:30-5:00. Others will swim from 5:00-5:45 (Mondays and Wednesdays). I spoke to most of you before the end of last year, but I will send an e-mail around September 9th to clarify which training session your swimmer will attend. More information will follow. Enjoy the rest of the summer!
A good, solid first swim for Chris at the IPC World championships. Chris swam the 100 back in a time of 1:15.47. This matches his previous best time. Congratulations Chris!