A program that helps young adults with special needs and began in Columbia will soon start expanding nationally through the YMCA.
That will happen after representatives from the Monroe County YMCA traveled to Baltimore on Oct. 1-4 to present a workshop on the TEAMWork program at a Y-USA Diversity, Inclusion and Global Initiatives National Conference.
“The goal was to leave the audience with step-by-step instructions on how they could start a TEAMWork program at their Y,” Monroe County YMCA Executive Director Scott Spinner said. “The part that makes it kind of cool is the TEAMWork program actually started outside of the Y by two parents in Columbia, so it’s unique to the Monroe County Y.”
TEAMWork stands for Transition Exceptional Young Adults in to Meaningful Work. It was started by Jon Wehrenberg and Kim Dailey to help young adults with special needs become productive and independent adults after high school.
The Y took it over to help continue the program’s growth.
“The Gateway Region Y has actually been a leader in inclusion services and serving people with disabilities for the last 20 years,” Spinner noted.
Although the program is still in its early stages at the Y, members of the program were selected to present on it at the conference, which included people from hundreds of YMCAs across America.
The conference included workshops on race, inequity in education and similar issues.
In addition to the Monroe County YMCA, two Y’s from Missouri presented for the Gateway Region YMCA, with about 200 people attending those workshops.
Fifty-five of those people attended the TEAMWork workshop, which Monroe County YMCA Youth & Family Director Lynsey Wehrenberg led.
Zach Dailey, Kim’s son and a member of the program, also spoke, quoting the movie “Field of Dreams.”
“Please start a TEAMWork program at the Y,” he told the crowded room of YMCA representatives. “If you build it, they will come. I know because I was one of them.”
Zach’s message resonated with at least a few of those in attendance, as Spinner said he or Lynsey has been contacted about starting a TEAMWork by YMCAs from nearby as Ohio and as far away as Washington.
It was already slated to expand in this region.
“It’s just amazing,” Spinner said of the response. “It’s like a dream come true in a way. The Y was founded on looking at your community, seeing what needs are out there and trying to find a way to meet that need… That’s exactly what (Jon and Kim) were doing. They were looking at our community and saw these kids with developmental disabilities needed a place to belong, socialize, have a safe place and learn independent skills after high school.”
Spinner said he is confident any other Y’s will be able to put Monroe County’s template to good use.
“We know there are young adults out there who are needing this program,” he said.