Greater Somerset County YMCA Offers Virtual Saturdays in Motion Program for Children with Special Needs

July 29, 2020

Basking Ridge, N.J. – July 29, 2020 – Greater Somerset County YMCA has launched a new virtual special needs program as an off-shoot to its Saturdays in Motion program. 

The Saturdays in Motion program at the Y’s Somerset Hills branch is the nation’s longest running non-public recreational program for children with autism and their families. In the program, teen volunteers work in the Y's gym and pool with children who have special needs and their siblings. The last school year marked the 28th year of the program.  In March, however, it was suspended because of the COVID-19 crisis 

The new program, called SIM Connect, was started by Art Raynes, the founder and coordinator of Saturdays in Motion. 

“I received a beautiful letter from one of our great volunteers, rising Bernards High senior Briana Gilman,” Raynes said. “Briana wrote about how much she missed Connor, a boy with whom she had worked for a couple of years.  She wanted to connect with Connor remotely. We worked out the details and said yes, of course, to Briana. But, it occurred to me that we could do a lot more than just connect one volunteer with just one child.”

SIM Connect will be available to all of the families who had participated in Saturdays in Motion, as well as other families with children with special needs who are new to the program. The hope is that volunteers would remotely read stories to, sing songs with, dance along with, or just chat with the children in the Saturdays in Motion program. 

Raynes put together a team of high school volunteers that included Briana, rising Bernards High senior Bridget Ball and rising Ridge junior Molly Laska. The goal was to mobilize Saturdays in Motion volunteers to virtually connect with as many Saturdays in Motion children as possible.

“Briana, Bridget and Molly have each been excellent volunteers in the Saturdays in Motion program for years,” Raynes said. “ They have done an outstanding job organizing SIM Connect, and in an expeditious manner.”

So far, the response has been overwhelming. Well over 50 teen volunteers have registered to connect with the children who had been served by the Saturdays in Motion program. Many of the volunteers have expressed a strong desire to re-connect with the children in the program. 

Sydney Hayes, a rising freshman at Watchung Hills High School, said of re-connecting with Juliana, the child with whom she worked at Saturdays in Motion, “I have worked with Juliana since my first day at Saturdays in Motion and our relationship has grown incredibly! I am so excited to Zoom with her and spend some long-awaited time together.”

According to Raynes, other volunteers similarly look forward to working with the children in the program:  “It is heartening to see the connections and relationships that have formed between our teenage volunteers and the children in the program.  It is really a credit to the volunteers of our community.”

For more information about SIM Connect and Saturdays in Motion, please visit

About Greater Somerset County YMCA

Greater Somerset County YMCA is a leading nonprofit committed to strengthening community by connecting all people to their potential, purpose and each other. The Y empowers everyone—no matter who they are or where they’re from—by ensuring access to resources, relationships and opportunities for all to learn, grow and thrive. For information about Greater Somerset County YMCA and financial assistance, visit us at

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