For longtime sports coach Tom Fucigna, who has worked with developmentally disabled children at the Cross Island Y for more than a decade, Friday was a big day.
It was the day Fucigna had planned for two years: a friendly swim meet between his students from the Y and their peers from the Douglaston Club that allowed both sets of children to have fun working with and competing against each other.
Fucigna said he got the idea to organize the meet when he realized the increasing popularity of unified sporting events, which place developmentally disabled children on teams with other children.
I hit me here I am a member of the club why dont I put together a unified meet? Fucigna said. It was sensational.
Last weeks event featured about 24 kids from the Cross Island Y in Bellerose and the Douglaston Club in Douglas Manor, who split into two teams to compete in relays around the pool in a variety of swimming styles including the backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Afterwards, Fucigna said, the Douglaston Club hosted a breakfast buffet for the athletes.
It was a fun day, a competitive day, and another experience for all 24 kids, said Fucigna, a longtime Douglaston resident who has coached at the Cross Island Y for 11 years. They were all so well behaved, and it all came off so beautifully.
While it took two years to get the Douglaston Club interested in hosting and to schedule the event, Fucigna said the day was so successful the children from the Cross Island Y have already challenged their Douglaston Club friends to a wintertime swim meet.
I hope it will be an annual event, he said.
Working with developmentally disabled children at the Y has added another dimension to his life, Fucigna said.
It's extremely fulfilling, he said. They give a lot, and when you work with them, they produce.
The coach, who teaches swimming, tennis, soccer, basketball and floor hockey at the Cross Island Y, said when some of the students who competed last week at the Douglaston Club began swimming lessons, they needed several flotation devices to keep afloat.
Describing how it felt to see some children progress to the point that they could compete, he said its very rewarding.
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2001 Community News Group
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