Lake Zurich athletes, volunteers both win in SNAP games
Jenna (right), a SNAP athlete, and Brooke, a volunteer, take a break from playing basketball at the Kitz Sports Center in Lake Zurich. | Photos courtesy of Meghan Mowinski GRID: Education in Focus
Updated: October 18, 2012 9:44AM
LAKE ZURICH — In 1999, Meghan Mowinski noticed there were no athletic programs for students with special needs in Lake Zurich School District 95.
So the physical education teacher decided to start one, and it has grown ever since.
“It’s where high school students partner with students with special needs,” said Mowinski of the local Special Needs Athletic Program (SNAP).
The program, she explained, is open to all District 95 students who have special needs and want to participate in activities like basketball, dance and bowling. All of the SNAP volunteers are high school students.
“We probably started with maybe 12 high school volunteers and about 10 athletes,” said Mowinski, explaining that the program now has about 30 athletes. “We usually have about 100 volunteers throughout the year.
“I’m not really sure who it benefits more, the athletes or the volunteers.”
SNAP athletes do not have to go to Lake Zurich’s public schools, but they do have to reside within the district boundaries. Athletes can range from eight to 22 years old.
Mowinski explained that the program has four groups of activities that they focus on throughout the school year. In November and December, SNAP partners with Trilogy Dance for a dance program. From January through March, the students compete in a bowling program at Brunswick Zone. Later in the spring, students participate in track and field at the high school and a program at Kits Sports Center is held in the fall.
“What I think is really amazing is that the athletes bond so well with the volunteers,” said Spring Green, a Lake Zurich parent who has been involved in SNAP since its second year. “The volunteers are really dedicated to this.”
Mowinski said starting SNAP was relatively easy because the village and the district welcomed the idea.
“The town of Lake Zurich has been great,” said Mowinski.
The school district has provided transportation for the program, which allows many more kids to participate.
Green added that the goal of SNAP is less about the athletics, and more about the social aspect.
“We’re not trying to make superstars out of these kids,” she said.
Green said several of the high school’s SNAP volunteers have gone on to pursue careers that involved people with disabilities.
“That’s pretty amazing,” said Green.
Green reported that SNAP is funded through private donations and that the Lake Zurich community has been very supportive.
“It really is a partnership with the community,” she said. “We’re kind of a unique entity.”