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Going for Gold

Killer Whales swim team aims to compete in Special Olympics

Sean Weisser of Sycamore first started swimming when he was 5 years old. This year, he joined his first swim team at the age of 30.

Weisser is one of 13 members of Iddy Biddy Pool School’s Killer Whales swim team. Anyone age 9 and older with intellectual disabilities can join the team, with the fastest swimmers qualifying to compete in the Special Olympics. Teammate Alec Wight of Rockford qualified to represent Illinois at the USA Special Olympics Games on July 1 in Seattle.

Since joining the Killer Whales, Weisser jokes that he now knows how to do the backstroke, freestyle and doggy paddle. His mom, Kathleen Weisser, said she has seen vast improvement in his swimming skills.

“He’s getting so much better at swimming, and he loves spending time with his friends,” Kathleen Weisser said. “I’ve seen a lot of progress in a short period of time, and the main thing is that he’s having fun and enjoys it.”

Jeremy Stine, owner and founder of IBPS, has taught swimming for 20 years, Special Olympics for 15 years, and after working with Opportunity House for 12 years, he purchased Iddy Biddy Pool School in 2011. In 2016, Stine started the Killer Whales team.

Iddy Biddy Pool School offers swim lessons for all ages and abilities, including private lessons, birthday parties and free prenatal and 3- to 8-month-old swim classes.

“My hope is to help others learn to enjoy the water and to reduce the drowning rate in DeKalb County,” Stine said. “If you own a business, I feel like it’s only right to give back to the community. I want to help make the water welcoming and fun for everyone.”

The Killer Whales’ season runs from November to February, with qualifications in March and state competition in June. The team meets Sunday mornings at Huntley Middle School, 1515 S. Fourth St. in DeKalb.

Susan Colgan of Genoa said her 29-year-old son Jimmy looks forward to swim class every week.

“He’s excited about swimming and has won gold medals several times and has been to state,” Susan Colgan said. “He likes to watch the Olympics on TV, and he has competed with Special Olympics in swimming, golf, snowshoeing and bowling. He works hard at his events, and everyone is very supportive. We’re so proud of him and all of his teammates for how well they do.”

Mary Reynolds of DeKalb, said her 21-year-old daughter Edith has been swimming since the age of 7 in Special Olympics and has competed in as many as 11 Special Olympics sports.

“Her goal is to swim the Paralympics, and she has swam on the Masters Team, National Masters Team and USA International Team, so she’s almost there,” Mary Reynolds said. “She has epilepsy, and swimming is great for her and helps her relax. It’s amazing to watch her overcome her disability and to get better at swimming.”

Libby Weaver, 32, of DeKalb, has been swimming under Stine’s tutelage for more than 12 years. Her mother, Diane Elliott, said that Libby’s success is due to Stine’s coaching techniques.

“She never had swim lessons before, and Jeremy is a wonderful coach,” Elliott said. “We all think he’s wonderful, and we appreciate his enthusiasm and dedication. Libby has motor planning issues, and it’s great that we’re able to see her form friendships and compete with people with other types and levels of disability.”

Stine’s goal is to keep all of his programs and classes affordable. Participation costs for the Killer Whales’ season is $75, which helps pay for swim equipment. A recent fundraiser helped raise $600 for team T-shirts. The Kishwaukee Special Recreation Association donated the use of the pool and a lifeguard, and Stine and his team of eight helpers are all volunteers. Within the next year, Stine hopes to create a nonprofit organization for the team.

“We’re teaching them more than swim strokes and swimming, we’re teaching sportsmanship, how to compete and listening skills,” Stine said. “We let them set the pace and enjoy swimming. It’s not all about competing, we take our time and have fun. I look forward to their progress, with them swimming farther and faster in the future.”

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Know more For more information about Iddy Biddy Pool School or the Killer Whales, visit www.iddybiddypoolschool.com or call 815-991-9162.

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