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County teen group to hold 10th annual Swim Fundraiser at area YMCA

The weather may be getting chillier, but the sound of summer fun will echo through the pools at the Somerset Hills YMCA this Sunday, as a county-wide volunteer organization seeks to raise money to support its recreational program for autistic children and their families.

Starting at 1 p.m. on Oct. 7, Saturdays in Motion will host its 10th annual Swim Fundraiser at the YMCA. Organized by a committee of Somerset Hills YMCA teen volunteers, all in their junior year of high school, the yearly event opens the YMCA’s swimming facilities to the public for activities ranging from casual swimming to cannonball contests.

For Saturday in Motion founder Art Raynes, the yearly program means more than just a fun day at the pool for a good cause.

“The kids know that they will swim and play games, but what and how they do it is up to them and their volunteer partners,” he said. “It’s a fun time and really helps build their confidence and independence.”

While entrance to the fundraiser is open to everyone, there is a suggested minimum donation of $25.

Each year, the entire event is organized by a committee of Somerset Hills YMCA teen volunteers. They manage everything from initial planning tasks to arranging activities that take place throughout the day of the event.

Raynes said the event-planning experience allows the members of the teen committee to develop their team building and leadership skills while working together for a good cause.

This year’s fundraising committee is comprised of: Ethan Chiu, of Basking Ridge; Emily Hold, of Warren; Rebecca Michaels, of Chester; and Joe Keil, of Bernardsville.

“We’re very proud of the work our young volunteers do with our SIM participants and everything they’ve done to make Sunday’s fundraiser possible,” he said.

This year, 11-year-old Jake Bartushak of Branchburg will perform the Star-Spangled Banner at the start of the event. Described by officials as a talented keyboardist, he is a regular with Saturdays in Motion and the Somerset Hills YMCA.

For the last 27 years, the volunteer-led program has provided special needs kids with an opportunity to get out, have fun and interact with other people in a safe environment.

According to Raynes, the group works with special needs children by pairing them with local teen volunteers who “guide them through a variety of enriching activities, such as basketball and swimming.”

Each month, the organization hosts free activities on two Saturdays a month at the Somerset Hills YMCA, where Raynes volunteers.

According to officials, the yearly swim fundraiser contributes to the Y’s ability to meet community needs with financial assistance and mission-based programs like Saturdays in Motion.

For more information on activities in the Somerset County YMCA system, visit http://www.somersetcountyymca.org/.

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