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“These lessons mean so much to Mariapaz. She pursues her passions without being marked as different,” her mother Yolanda beamed. HeartShare’s Options Project Reimbursement Program offers eleven year old Mariapaz, who has Down Syndrome, the opportunity to pursue a personal interest with both physical and social benefits. With the HeartShare Options grant, Mariapaz took swimming lessons at Shorefront, which her family otherwise couldn’t afford. In addition to receiving physical therapy at school, the swimming lessons help Mariapaz improve her muscle strength, balance and motor skills. Mariapaz quickly transitioned out of the swimming class for children with special needs, so she was able to interact with and befriend other children. The annual one-time HeartShare grant opportunity may be used for a range of costs related to special needs, including respite care, adaptive equipment, skills training, behavioral supports and camp, which help a child or adult with an intellectual or developmental disability attain a higher quality of life. “To me, it’s not just processing applications, but providing personalized attention and support. I pride myself on developing strong relationships with the recipients,” explained Senior Coordinator Linda Rasport, who has overseen the program for over 20 years. Now, Mariapaz is exercising options with additional resources that are not only strengthening her physical health, but also ensure her inclusion in the New York community. “Seeing how our children and families benefit from this grant opportunity is infinitely rewarding. It makes me so happy,” Linda concluded.
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