Notice: This is not a City of Long Beach site.

Dear Readers: Please note that this is not a City of Long Beach website and is not paid for nor maintained by taxpayer funds.

If you contact Gerrie Schipske through this site on any matter pertaining to the City of Long Beach, a copy of your contact will be forwarded to her official city email as an official public record.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Right in our own backyard --Help Ability First

Schipske: Physical Fitness Program for Disabled Children, Adults
Needs Long Beach Community Support for Fiscal Fitness

Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske urges residents to support a local physical fitness program for disabled children and adults.

The AbilityFirst Long Beach Center, at 3770 East Willow Street, serves more than 350 community members with disabilities. “It has one of only two warm water pools in the Long Beach area and a curriculum designed to do more than teach participants how to keep their heads above water,” Schipske says.  “It strives to help them become more independent, learn to play and act in social situations and improve their physical and emotional wellbeing.”

The AbilityFirst After School Program serves more than 50 children and young adults who need a safe, effective exercise program where they learn to swim. That can be tough with physical or developmental disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and epilepsy.  The warm water is conducive to stretching, muscle extension and limb movement. Improved physical health radiates into all aspects of a child’s health, according to the center’s Gail Stewart Garber. The staff educates parents about healthy living so entire families can be fit, and encourages participants to attend aquatics sessions consistently all year.

More than 30 adults with similar disabilities are enrolled in the Adult Day Program.

Whether children or adults, these are people who typically don’t get to swim at public pools because they need a lot of assistance, changing into their swimsuits and getting in and out of the pool.  AbilityFirst provides a staff to participant ratio of up to one-to-one, for a quality aquatics experience tailored to each participant’s needs, Garber says.

AbilityFirst also offers warm water exercise classes for community swimmers with arthritis and related conditions, fibromyalgia, obesity-related conditions and people recovering from stroke, illness or injuries. It serves more than 350 community members with disabilities, mostly seniors, with an average age of 65.

AbilityFirst, provides a training ground for Cal State Long Beach Therapeutic Recreation students when it’s time to do internships, Garber notes.

“This incredible program exists on a tight budget, squeezed by the economic downturn and state cuts, and AbilityFirst is appealing for donations to Long Beach corporations and civic groups,” Schipske notes. “To help these children and adults continue to hone their abilities, please help AbilityFirst.”

For more information about the AbilityFirst Aquatics and After School programs, please contact Gail Stewart Garber, Regional Director of Development, at (562) 264-0479 or go to                       ###

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