Suzie Clinchy realized there was no track program in Westchester County for children with disabilities comparable to Fast Feet, a non-profit organization she founded in New York City which provides athletic and health programs for youth with developmental and physical disabilities. Encouraged by Westchester residents, Clinchy worked with the Westchester track club to set up a summer program at Sleepy Hollow’s High School track.
Clinchy, a track star in high school and at Wake Forest University, grew up in Westchester. She moved to New York City and taught mathematics before establishing an after-school running club for students interested in track and field. She taught track to children with autism, which inspired her to launch Fast Feet, a program for children with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and partial paralysis. Clinchy discovered there were not many athletic options for students with disabilities. “I could not find anything similar to what we had created at that school, so I saw a great need to create opportunities for children to engage in inclusive athletic programs.” Clinchy added, “I continued to receive feedback from parents who said the program really helped their child and they wished there were more activities like that available. That was really the catalyst to starting Fast Feet.”
The program had a modest beginning. Now it has expanded to five community locations, up to 8 school partnerships, and virtual program for online activities. Today, about 600 families participate in Fast Feet. Participants have experienced great improvements and breakthroughs. Fast Feet’s students have excelled in athletics for the first time ever. In addition, participants have learned how to manage their bodies, move quickly and safely, listen to and follow directions, and practice teamwork. According to Hope Buerkle, a member of the board of directors and parent of a Fast Feet participant, “Fast Feet allows participants to try a sport in a very supportive and cooperative environment that is understanding and flexible, which reduces the stress on parents and kids. There are trained coaches that know how to work with children of all abilities.” She elaborated, “Having access to an adaptive athletic program has been transformative for my son.”
Fast Feet gives participants both an athletic and social opportunity. It is a safe space where many students can make friendships. “Fast Feet is so much fun. It is good exercise, I made new friends, and the coaches are great”, said Claudine, a Fast Feet athlete. Fast Feet contributes to participants’ mental health and physical well-being. Families in Westchester benefit from an excellent running program, which is accessible for the entire community.
- Weekly Sessions: Wednesdays, from July 7 to August 25 from 6:30-7:30 pm
- Address: 210 North Broadway, Sleepy hollow, NY 10591 (Sleepy Hollow High School Track)
- Register: fastfeetnyc.com/run
- Cost: $100 (financial assistance is available)
- Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Maya Phillips is an Irvington resident and rising junior at The Masters School. She focuses on linking media and social justice at the grass-roots and worldwide.