MEET BEN KAAS
A highlight of 40-year-old Ben Kaas’ week is his tennis lessons at the Merrimack YMCA with instructor Dick Lane. Ben’s goal is to end the lesson with his ‘happy dance,’ which means he has hit six tennis balls in a row.
Ben’s sister, Liz Kaas, is Director of Health and Wellness for the Y and is one of Ben’s biggest supporters. “Ben is neuro-diverse. He deals with significant challenges including Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, ASD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and a seizure disorder- which has been well managed for the last few years, thankfully,”
Ben is not new to the Y. He grew up swimming at the Merrimack Y, one of his favorite activities. Now, in addition to taking tennis lessons, he walks the track at the Y two times a week for an hour, and adds in a daily walk in his neighborhood. Ben has the support of Opportunity Networks, supporting individuals with disabilities and establishing partnerships in the community that are beneficial to everyone.
“The YMCA is such a great organization to offer and support an adaptive program. The Y is a welcoming community for Ben and place he is always safe, able to grow, and have fun at the same time. He is extremely outgoing, loves people, and loves to chat. Ben is a big presence. He has a great sense of humor and makes friends easily. He makes friends walking the track, and everyone at the welcome centers know him,” Liz shared.
“The Y is a great place for the community to experience inclusion. When we were growing up it was very important for my mom to go into schools and programs Ben was involved in and educate the staff and other students to help them better understand Ben and see beyond his disabilities. Inclusion is very important for the adaptive community. We aren’t singling out neuro-diverse people. We’re just sharing in their abilities and life experiences.”
Melissa Collins, YMCA Human Resources Generalist, notes, “When Ben comes into the Y he says hello to everyone! He comes in with a smile on and is full of energy and a smile on his face! He gets to his exercise after he has said his hellos. He is always polite and we love having him brighten our day when he comes in!”
If you’re at the Merrimack Y on Tuesday afternoons between 1pm and 2pm, stop by the tennis courts to say ‘hi’ to Ben! He loves making new friends. “I feel good and happy when I play tennis. I’m proud of myself. Dick is a good instructor. He’s nice and funny. We joke around while playing,” Ben said. “I look forward to this a lot! It’s one of my favorite things to do!”
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