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Press Release

Monday, February 27, 2023

Beignet Fest Foundation Funds Training for Adaptive Swim Lessons for Autistic Youth

YMCA of Greater New Orleans aquatics staff to receive national certification

 New Orleans, LA (Feb. 27, 2023) – The Beignet Fest Foundation and YMCA of Greater New Orleans are teaming up to provide more opportunities for adaptive swimming lessons for autistic youth. Funded by proceeds from the 2022 Beignet Fest, the Y’s aquatics staff will receive specialized training and a “Swim Whisperer” certification through the organization, Swim Angelfish.

Accidental drowning accounts for approximately 91% of total U.S. deaths reported in children with autism spectrum disorder ages 14 and younger, according to the National Autism Association.

“Swim Angelfish is a nationally recognized program and has been a driving force behind adaptive swim lessons for two decades,” said Taylor Oelking, Executive Director of Aquatics at YMCA of Greater New Orleans.

“We are thrilled to bring this specialized training to our Aquatics Academy with support from the Beignet Fest Foundation, allowing us to make at least 10 new swim instructors available for children with autism and like special needs this summer.”,” said Oelking.

Registration for swim lessons through the Y will open March 1, 2023. More information about diverse ability lessons can be found at ymcaneworleans.org/healthyliving/swim-lessons/.

This year, the Beignet Fest Foundation is focused on the critical need for water safety programs with support for both YMCA of Greater New Orleans and Community Sailing New Orleans.

“When we talk to parents, we hear overwhelmingly that families are looking for programs that allow autistic children to cool off and enjoy the water just as their peers are able to do,” said Sherwood Collins, founder and executive director of Beignet Fest and Beignet Fest Foundation. “The programs that we are supporting create inclusive, safe environments for kids to learn water safety and enjoy the surroundings of Southeast Louisiana, which has vast water activities.”


About Beignet Fest/Beignet Fest Foundation: Beignet Fest is a premier food festival in Louisiana that celebrates one of New Orleans’s most iconic dishes: the beignet. From traditional sweet treats with powdered sugar to savory options paired with seafood, cheese and more, Beignet Fest serves up the best beignets in the South all in one place on one day.

Proceeds from Beignet Fest benefit the Beignet Fest Foundation, which raises awareness and support for autism programs in Greater New Orleans that serve autistic youth and their families.

About YMCA of Greater New Orleans: The YMCA of Greater New Orleans is a nonprofit organization with locations across the region, providing services, programs, and support to help our community succeed. By nurturing the potential of every child and teen, improving the city’s health and well-being, and supporting and serving our neighbors, the Y ensures that everyone has the opportunity to become healthier, more confident, connected and secure.

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