HINGHAM (CBS) — Fourteen miles south of Boston, the seaside community of Hingham produced hundreds of ships during World War II. It was home to Samuel Lincoln, the first American ancestor of President Abraham Lincoln. It’s also a sports town, home to several NHL players and Suzanne Parsons, a member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
When it comes to youth sports, this is a community where everyone is encouraged to play together. High school athletes work with kids with developmental disabilities through a program called SNAP: Special Needs Athletic Partnership.
For Avery Berigan, it was the perfect solution when traditional sports just didn’t work.
“She wanted to be on a team. She wanted to be surrounded by friends, but her disabilities made that hard,” her mom, Pam told WBZ-TV. “We tried to put her in the young kickers soccer program. We tried to put her in basketball, it just ended up being stressful for me, trying to get her to participate, stressful for her trying to keep up, so we stopped.”
The kids are partnered with high school athletes like Kristen Barrett who plays basketball at Notre Dame Academy.
“It’s just so fun for me to just see the smile on their faces when they learn a new trick, or when they make a shot in the game,” she said.
They play as teams or one-on-one, whatever works.
“If a kid doesn’t want to participate, who cares?” Berigan said. “The parents don’t have to worry about it.”
For founder Warren Pelissier, providing opportunities for special needs kids was only part of his goal. “We want to bridge the gap between typical kids and special needs kids,” he said.
If you ask Avery’s mom, that seems to be working.
“For Avery it’s been tremendous. She goes to high school with them, she’s sitting at lunch with them,” she said.
The program also goes beyond the high school gym. The program offers rowing, a summer camp and trips to the movies on Saturday mornings.
SNAP started in Hingham but now includes several other South Shore towns. According to Berigan, other communities have visited to see if they can create similar programs.