NSYMCA Special Needs Volunteers Learn Valuable Life Lessons


When 17-year-old Zack Lofman began volunteering at the YMCA North Suburbs Exercise Connection, a program for young adults with special needs, he never imagined the essential life lessons he was about to learn.

“Volunteering has made me more patient with people with special accommodations. I think it’s a skill that everyone should learn, just be patient and wait,” Lofman said.

When Lofman reached the 20 hours of service required by his school, he asked if he could continue volunteering. To date, Lofman, who believes everyone has an obligation to give back in one way or another, has volunteered for more than 140 hours of exercise connection and yoga classes.

“It gave me a new perspective on my life. My issues seem small compared to a child or adult with special needs or a parent of someone with special needs,” Lofman explained.

The Y’s Exercise Connection program, led by certified autism exercise trainer Tom March, has expanded its Saturday morning class schedule, attributing its success to its dedicated school-age volunteers.

“The longevity of volunteers can be short-lived due to extracurricular activities and academic needs,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have the stability and quality of our volunteer staff.”

Until recently, volunteers came from local schools looking for 20 hours of service to fill a need for their classes.

“The Y now welcomes volunteers who have chosen to work with the autistic population and with special needs,” explains March.

Each volunteer is screened to ensure they have what March calls “a heart of service.”

Samantha Field, a freshman at Glenbrook North High School, volunteers two hours a week for the Y’s Exercise Connection and yoga classes, and she plans to continue her volunteer work at the Y throughout her high school education. .

“I have learned so much about how to help people with autism through my volunteer work, including using breathing exercises to help participants calm down.”

Field noted, adding that it was a “great feeling” to know that you are doing something useful for someone else.

“I’ve also learned that there are many types of autism and everyone is affected differently. And, if someone has autism, they can still be an amazing person,” she said.

Throughout its commitment to providing services to the community with special needs, the YMCA of the Northern Suburbs has maintained a range of courses that provide fundamental physical and social opportunities to this population. The Y uses yoga, dance, swimming and exercise classes to empower the autism and special needs community, helping them to create an active lifestyle. Classes are designed with the help of volunteers who provide training sessions specific to the individual’s needs.

“To see young people so dedicated to their service to others is heartwarming and a positive reflection on our community. We are so lucky to have these people at the Y, ”commented March.

For more information on the Exercise Connection program at the North Suburban YMCA or to volunteer, contact Ellen Mirochnick, Special Services Coordinator for the North Suburban YMCA at [email protected]

About the North Suburbs YMCA

The North Suburban YMCA serves Northbrook and 14 surrounding communities with programs and tools that help its residents become healthier, more connected and confident, ensuring that everyone, regardless of age, income or background , has the opportunity to learn, grow and flourish. . The NSYMCA is focused on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility and is a 501 (c) 3 charity, inclusive and welcoming to all in our community. Learn more at NSYMCA.org.


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