Friday, June 02, 2023

A unique aqua therapy program was established in Bergen County in 1976 by long-time Teaneck resident Ruth Cowan. As a physical therapist, Ruth was aware that body movements that are difficult or impossible for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients could become possible in the water. With the support of the National MS Society’s New Jersey Metro Chapter and the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) Bergen County Section, she designed an ambitious project for supervised therapeutic exercise in a pool. Ruth, a past president of NCJW, relied on fellow Council members as well as friends and neighbors to create a corps of dedicated volunteers to set up and maintain this program.

Swim-In continues today to offer 15-20 men and women with MS invaluable physical, emotional and social benefits each week. It has been nationally recognized and is the only water-therapy program run by volunteers at no charge to participants. The NCJW continues its support and remains a significant source of the volunteer group, and the MS Society provides financial and administrative assistance. The Kaplen Jewish Community Center (JCC) on the Palisades offers its pool facilities each Wednesday from September through May.

Each swimmer must have approval of his/her physician and the Swim-In’s licensed physical therapist in order to participate. Swimmers are fitted with buoyancy belts and helped into the pool where they can walk in the water, swim and exercise with a volunteer. The exercise makes them stronger and provides a feeling of elation that can last for hours. In addition, they interact with other persons with MS, form friendships and have a thoroughly enjoyable time on Wednesday afternoons and at other gatherings throughout the year, including the annual spring luncheon and summer pizza party.

Volunteers provide valuable assistance in and/or out of the pool. Tasks can include escorting swimmers in wheelchairs to/from the parking lot to locker rooms, assisting in dressing and undressing, setting up the specially designed staircase into the pool, helping swimmers navigate the steps into and out of the pool or serving as swim buddies in the pool.

Swimmers and volunteers alike enjoy the social and physical advantages of this unique community service project and a caring bond embraces the entire group.

To ensure that Swim-In continues to function successfully, additional men and women volunteers are needed. Call Michael Silverstein at 201-692-1334 or email Leta Arad at [email protected],com to arrange a visit to a Wednesday session or obtain additional information.

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