An Orange mom and avid runner has started the third chapter of the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program in the U.S. The Connecticut chapter meets each Saturday morning at 9:30 at the High Plains Community Center Fairgrounds.
“Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program is one of the first inclusive running clubs in the USA for all athletes,” said Mimi Washington, founder of the Connecticut chapter. The organization was founded in 1998 by Steve Cuomo in Long Island, N.Y., to provide challenged individuals with the opportunity to successfully participate in all levels of mainstream running, walking, or wheelchair racing.
Washington is looking for volunteer guides, runners, walkers and support staff to help on Saturday mornings. High school students looking for community service hours are encouraged to help out. “Rolling Thunder provides everyone the opportunity to develop or improve with typical peers. It also teaches everyone consistency, direction following, social skills, and how to be independent in doing something they love,” Washington said.
No running experience is needed to join the team. All coaches are volunteers and the organization has no paid staff. Individuals with challenging behaviors are welcome.
One benefit of the club, according to the founders, is that the entire family can exercise and improve their physical fitness at the same time in the same place. Known as a true inclusion program, Rolling Thunder integrates special needs individuals with their typical peers at all team practices, races and events, encouraging and training athletes to reach their maximum potential, by providing discipline and structure in a supportive and competitive atmosphere. “We’re going to start working in a yoga session at the end of each practice,” Washington said. She can be reached at 516-849-1028 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
During the running clinic on September 30, the Rolling Thunder Club was joined by Steve Cuomo, the founder of this program and International Paralympic Coach, along with his coaching staffs, athletes and their families from Long Island N.Y.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent