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SAFE program introduced in Bethlehem

A community that cares may sound good on paper or a town sign, but when it actually happens, it's nothing short of pure inspiration.

A program called Sports Are For Everyone, or SAFE, is making its debut in Bethlehem after being successful in Clifton Park. The program allows kids with special needs in grades 2 through 12 to play a non-competitive seasonal sport with the help of local high school and middle school athletes.

Launched by James Fitzgerald in Clifton Park, SAFE will officially be launched in Bethlehem by the town's Parks and Recreation Department, said the department's assistant administrator, Jason Gallow.

Starting on Saturday, Sept. 20, and then continuing on Saturdays on Sept. 27 and Oct. 4, 18, and 25, soccer will be offered at Elm Avenue Park Fields in Delmar from noon until 1:15 p.m. Fitzgerald will be on hand to serve as a coach, and registration is open to all who are interested.

Registration cost $60 and includes a T-shirt and a trophy, and the meets will take place near the office building at the park.

We are offering and have started registration, Gallow said. "This is the first time we're really trying it here in Bethlehem."

Gallows said the town is working with the school district and have distributed 1,000 fliers about SAFE. The plan is to offer other sports like basketball in the winter and then another sport in the spring, he said, adding that he expects the program to grow with each seaon.

Town Councilman Sam Messina said he brought the idea to the Town Board after seeing Fitzgerald's program in Clifton Park.

"My wife and I were up there supporting a youngster who had Cerebral Palsy," Messina said. "I didn't know what to expect, but what we discovered was a great program."

Messina said the program is not only great for the kids, but for the athletes and the parents.

"To me it was much more about participation and engaging into the community," Messina said. "I think the athletes got as much out of this program as the kids. And it allows parents to sit back in the stands and have a hotdog and enjoy their children playing."

For registration or information, contact the parks office at 439-4955, option 3.

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