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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Connerty sponsors special needs sports clinic

Published: December 4, 2014
Section: Featured, News

On Jan. 10, Ed Connerty, former special education teacher in the Tewksbury Public Schools and founder of SPARK (Special People, Athletes, and Remarkable Kids), will be hosting a free basketball clinic for children with special needs. Connerty, who is a passionate advocate for children with both physical and mental disabilities, explains that the event is multifaceted, bringing together a support network of families, athletes and mentors.

Connerty has ties to Brandeis University due to previous events at which Brandeis students volunteered.

According to Connerty, there are over 1,100 children with special needs in the Waltham area alone. The clinic, which will be held at the Henry Whittemore Elementary School in Waltham, will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with registration beginning at 10 a.m. Connerty urges members of the Brandeis community to “come and see a community at work, helping individuals that haven’t had the opportunity to play sports in their life—for free.”

Connerty actively fundraises to provide the equipment and facilities necessary to make his clinics possible. Without incurring any costs on the families of participants, the clinics transcend financial barriers to allow children of all socioeconomic classes to attend.

In fact, on Jan. 29, SPARK will be hosting a comedy fundraiser featuring a Brandeis a capella group, alongside famous comedians, such as Dave Russo. Russo has recently been awarded the title “best male comic” by The Boston Examiner. “To make anything work, we all know it takes money,” Connerty acknowledged, stating, “Please show your support for these special abilities athletes that reside in our community.”

Previous events organized by Connerty in the past include a soccer clinic, held on Oct. 25. Originally intended to be hosted at Brandeis, the clinic was held at McDevitt Middle School in Waltham. Despite the change in location, members of the Brandeis varsity soccer teams were on site to serve as mentors for participating special needs children.

As a founder of the Titan Tee-Ball special abilities baseball program in Tewksbury, Connerty has long demonstrated a passion and dedication to supporting special needs children and their families. Describing his experience as truly rewarding, Connerty recalls a young special needs student from the Tewksbury area who participated in his events. “Because of volunteers and her dedication, she is now on the high school field hockey team and has the intention of playing ice hockey in the very near future,” he stated.

Despite the fact that inevitably, not every special needs student who participates in the programs will continue with sports in the future, Connerty said, “that one, two or three who do, that’s huge.”

Noting the remarkable contribution of the students and community members who volunteer their time and effort to make these events possible, Connerty stated, “Volunteering takes compassion, commitment and the ability to share your knowledge with another human being.”

When asked to share the benefits volunteers themselves may gain from lending their time and efforts, Connerty posed the question, “If your child is volunteering in the community, no matter if they are helping special needs kids or the elderly, does it make our community better, or does it make it worse?”

Connerty urges anyone interested in volunteer opportunities with the clinic or in learning more about his initiatives for special needs children to contact him at (978) 551-0944 or at