Special Needs Swim Team Regains Use Of YMCA Pool

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ST. CHARLES COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - Parents of special needs children in St. Charles County can rest easier, knowing that their kids won't be barred from participating in an activity they love.

More than 40 kids swim on the Special Olympics team at the St. Charles County YMCA. Since late November, parents and the Special Olympics Missouri organization were under the impression that the team couldn’t swim there anymore. But after FOX 2 investigated, it’s looking like this is no longer an issue.

Eleven year-old Alex Connolly was born with Down syndrome, but since age one, he’s been swimming.

His mother, Margaret Connolly, explains, “That is his love, there isn’t a day that goes by if you want to go swimming, he would stay in the pool all day if he could.”

But several weeks ago, Connolly got a letter in the mail bearing bad news.  

“It was addressed to every member on the special Olympics swim team through Show Me Aquatics, and it was from the President and CEO,” she says, “and it stated that despite discussions they had with the YMCA,...the Y had stated that there really was no pool space or time to be given to the team anymore. They said their typical normal developing swim team they have there had grown and required more space.”

The president concluded that he had no choice but to disband the swim team.  
Connolly was heartbroken: “Just being around those individuals and knowing how much it means to them; to be a part of that and accomplish things. I was devastated.”

But just after FOX 2 contacted YMCA Executive Director Renee Tillman, she called the Show Me Aquatics president and resolved the issue.  Tillman wouldn't go on camera, but did release a statement saying, “Unfortunately, there seems to have been a misunderstanding. It was never communicated that Show Me Aquatics would be unable to use the pool for the Show Me Games, nor was that ever the plan or intention.”

Tillman believes the confusion came while the swim team was waiting for a new contract to be finalized between the YMCA and Show Me Aquatics.

Upon hearing the news, Connolly wonders, “Why is this first coming out now, when so many questions have been asked, and so much discussion has been made?”

Despite her skepticism, the mom of three is relieved that she can end her frantic search for a new pool for her son, and Alex can continue to be a proud Special Olympian.

She explains, “If that is correct, then my prayers have been answered.”

The St. Louis Director of Special Olympics Missouri tells FOX 2 they were already in the process of trying to find a new pool for these kids, but thankfully, that is no longer necessary.

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