Playmaker Spotlight – Cindy Freedman
Cindy Freedman was a 15-year-old lifeguard at her local YMCA when she was asked to volunteer for the Special Olympics. Cindy had always felt at home in the water, but it was the Special Olympics that helped her realize she felt the most at home when she was in the water to help others.
Cindy went on to earn an undergraduate degree in Recreational Therapy and a Master’s in Occupational Therapy. She specialized in helping children of varying abilities gain confidence, composure, and life-saving skills in the water.
According to Cindy:
“It wasn’t until I finished all of my accreditations and moved to Connecticut that I uncovered this statistic from the CDC about the leading cause of death for children with autism being drowning. At first, it made me sick to my stomach as a Mom, a teacher, as a caring person who loves the water. Then, it started to fuel my passion.”
Cindy started offering Aquatic Occupational Therapy in Westport, CT, and was scheduled for an in-service session with a client at a local rehab center who was also being treated by Pediatric Physical Therapist, Ailene Tisser.
“The first time Ailene and I were scheduled to meet, I walked in two hours late carrying my three-month-old daughter. Most people probably wouldn’t have dealt with me after that, but Ailene isn’t most people. She could tell that I was passionate, and once she saw me with her patients—and saw her patients reaching their goals more quickly and confidently in the water—well, we just knew we had to work together.”
What started with a few referrals grew into a lasting partnership and thriving business.
In 2000, Cindy and Ailene launched Angelfish Therapy, offering occupational and physical therapy in the pool. Seeing incredible progress, families of patients asked for extra time in the pool and additional one-on-one swim lessons. Their methods worked so well that Cindy and Ailene developed their own adaptive swim methodology and re-launched their business as Swim Angelfish in 2014.
As Cindy puts it:
“We’re focused on erasing that drowning statistic and making the water a place of peace and joy for all children. We can accomplish this by having at least one adaptive swim instructor a part of every swim program. That’s why we now offer adaptive lessons, aquatic therapy, and camps, along with in-person and online training for instructors. It’s also why we became Playmakers through The Life is Good Kids Foundation.”
Cindy and Ailene’s passion turned into a business that facilitates more than 400 one-on-one swim lessons a week, supports thousands of children and families a year, and improves the skills of nearly 100 instructors around the world. They understood the importance of reinvesting in themselves and in the generous and talented staff who continue to help our kids by getting in the pool each and every day.
“We immediately connected with the notion of a Playmaker Practice, of developing an intentional and meaningful plan to take the best care of yourself so that you are best able to take care of others. We continue to apply the principles we rediscovered through the Playmaker Retreats in everything we do—from the way we welcome kids into the pool, to the way we hire staff, to the way we stay connected to the families who’ve come through our programs. We truly are doing what we love and loving what we do.”
You can learn more about Cindy, Ailene and Swim Angelfish on their website.
If you’d like to send them a note of gratitude for the special way that they contribute to building a world where life can truly be good for all kids, click the “submit” button below.