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JCC Inclusion Programs Spark Growth for Its Members

Ira Bluestein

It’s 7 p.m. on a Thursday night and the gym at the Mayerson JCC gears up for another fun night of Adapted Basketball, a class that is part of the inclusion programming at the J. A bus pulls into the J with visitors from Catholic Residential Services (CRS) while others arrive with family members or caretakers.

One of the usuals, Ira Bluestein, arrives with his caretaker, Dave. Ira sports a red shirt to ensure he will always be on the red team, and he doesn’t have to worry about wearing the practice pennies that are issued at the game.

When Ira arrives at the gym, he is greeted by his two coaches, Mike Creemer and James Swan. Being a social butterfly, Ira takes a moment before warming up to chat with some of his friends who have arrived. He even finds time to play a quick pick-up game with a young JCC member who happened to be shooting hoops before the game. As anyone who knows Ira will tell you, that’s just who he is.

His sister, Monica Bluestein, is a member at the JCC and heard about the inclusion programs. She enrolled Ira in the Adapted Basketball program to give him a bi-weekly activity to look forward to. This is just one of the programs offered at the J. Others include art, fitness classes, and powerlifting. Ira chose basketball and has enjoyed coming ever since. Participating in activities is just one of the ways Ira likes to get to know people.

When he first started participating in the program, Ira spent more time talking to everyone and not really paying attention to the game. He enjoyed talking to those in authority more than with the participants. Over time, Ira has grown to enjoy engaging with the other players and actively participating.

“Ira is very inquisitive and loves learning about others. He is consistently asking questions about them and their families,” Monica said. “Making friends is his specialty.”

The inclusion programs allow Ira and others to make friends and stay active in a safe space. Creemer started running Adapted Basketball in 2010, when CRS needed a space for their members to play. Swan joined Creemer early on to help lead the program.

Creemer and Swan’s main goal is to make sure everyone is involved and having a good time.

“Everyone is at a different level,” Creemer said. “For example, some participants don’t speak much, or some are pretty shy, but we encourage them to get out there and have a good time.”

Creemer loves seeing how the program and the people have grown over the years, including Ira. Because of these programs, those of all abilities can find a place to just have fun and build connections. He wants the participants to feel like this is just like any other program at the JCC, and he and Swan are their coaches.

“It’s not always easy,” Creemer said. “But it is totally worth it.”

“It’s fun playing basketball,” Ira said. “I know a lot of people here now.”

Cross training. Young woman exercising with dumbbells.

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