By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — A new sports play program will begin in Derry next month.
Special Olympics’ Young Athletes program will offer innovative, sports play for children ages 2 through 7 with or without disabilities.
The united program will teach foundational sports skills while offering social, cognitive and physical development support while giving families connections to local Special Olympics programs.
Derry Parks and Recreation’s gymnasium at Veterans Hall will be a host site for the program, beginning March 12. Sessions will be held on subsequent Wednesdays through May.
Parks and Recreation staff member Nicole Ferrante said the department is very excited about hosting the new program. She said the unified sessions will help bridge the gap between the younger children and the official Special Olympics program for the older athletes that begins at the age of 8.
“It will take some of the stigma away,” Ferrante said. “We’re trying to help with that.”
Children of all developmental levels will play together, learn together and take home valuable skills.
The program is free and will benefit families who want to get their younger children involved in early sports programs, while making those important connections to the Special Olympics organization, Ferrante said.
Ferrante is very involved with Derry’s Timberwolves Special Olympics teams. The team involves the older athletes, but the new program gives younger children ways to be involved until they are old enough to participate on a team.
“Everybody can participate,” she said. “It’s a great program; I’m very excited.”
There will be volunteers and instructors working with the children and teaching them simple skills like kicking, throwing and running.
Sessions will be limited to 15 participants. The program is free, but advance registration is required. Call 432-6136 for information.