Seeking volunteers for MS swim program
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Seeking volunteers for MS swim program

NCJW volunteers work with swimmers at “Swim-In,” a unique aquatherapy program for people with multiple sclerosis. More volunteers are needed to help the swimmers both in and out of the pool. (NCJW)
NCJW volunteers work with swimmers at “Swim-In,” a unique aquatherapy program for people with multiple sclerosis. More volunteers are needed to help the swimmers both in and out of the pool. (NCJW)

“Swim-In,” a unique aquatic therapy program for people with multiple sclerosis, is looking for both men and women to work as volunteers, who push wheelchairs, assist clients in the locker room, or become swim buddies in the pool. The group meets on Wednesdays at noon from September to May at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly.

Swim-In, which has been recognized nationally, is the only water-therapy program in the United States run by volunteers at no charge to participants. The Bergen County section of the National Council of Jewish Women supports the program and provides many of its volunteers, and the MS Society provides financial and administrative assistance. Weekly sessions give people with MS improved body movement in the water and offer pleasant socialization for swimmers and volunteers.

Each swimmer needs approval from his or her physician and the program’s licensed physical therapist to participate. Swimmers are fitted with buoyancy belts and helped into the pool, where they can walk in the water, swim, and exercise with a volunteer. They also interact with other people with MS and form friendships, both at the Wednesday swims and at other gatherings throughout the year, including an annual spring luncheon and a summer pizza party.

Volunteers are responsible for the intricate logistics of bringing the group of swimmers in wheelchairs through all stages of the two-hour program. Volunteers who choose to work in the pool must be able to swim.

The program was founded in 1976 by Ruth Cowan, a licensed physical therapist and past president of the local NCJW section. From the beginning, Ms. Cowan was determined that the program would be run to the highest professional standards. “Individuals with MS can do many things in the water, thanks to the buoyancy it provides, that are impossible to do out of the water,” she said. “The exercise makes them stronger and provides a feeling of elation that can last for hours.”

“There is no question that both the social and exercise aspects of this special community service are rewarding on multiple levels to swimmers and volunteers alike,” Bergen County NCJW Swim-In program co-chairs Ina Miller-Silverstein and Roxanne Reff said. “The loving, caring bond that is formed between a participant and his or her volunteer buddy and the rest of the group is a very important factor in the success of the program.”

For information, email Leta Arad at leta_arad@hotmail.com or call Michael Silverstein at (201) 692-1334

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