EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Physical activities and exercise can help kids with disabilities achieve their mental and physical potential.

That’s why the greater Scranton YMCA started a new program offering kids with disabilities activities they can do rather than focus on what they can’t do.

It’s estimated more than 6 million Americans have a developmental disability. Although these people have diverse health needs, abilities, and backgrounds, they have one thing in common: the need to engage with others. That’s the goal with “We Are Y”.

Tie-dying t-shirts is the name of the game on this night at the greater YMCA in Dunmore.

This small group is participating in We are Y. It’s a new program that provides individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities access to free, recreational activities on a weekly basis.

“This program came about through a partnership with all one foundation so it’s a grant-funded program,” said Brandon Whipple, Health and Wellness Director at the YMCA.

We are Y activities vary from week to week; everything from crafts, to fitness, to dancing and even swimming.

“We let them know what activities they’ll be doing week to week, um, you’re not required to come every week, get on the website and see what activity is and if you want to come we’re more than willing to have you,” explained Whipple.

We are Y program kicked off in mid-February and so far nearly 2 dozen families have signed up to take part.

Sam is one of them. He’s diagnosed with autism. Sam’s sister Angela Orzel hopes visiting the Y will become a weekly ritual for her brother.

“Initially, he just wanted to come for the swim portion that they did last week and he had such a good time he actually wanted to come back for the second week to do the tie-dying with everybody,” expressed Orzel.

There are multiple studies that emphasize the importance of social relationships for longer, healthier life, but at times people with disabilities experience social exclusion because of stigmas or health issues.

The Y aims to provide meaningful outlets where relationships can flourish, eradicating this isolation one event at a time.

“I love seeing my brother be included and have activities that better him and benefit him, have his own community,” said Orzel.

“Whether its pools, basketball courts, recreational activities fitness classes, so, really there’s something here for everyone,” stated Whipple.

The We are Y program is for anyone 10 and older with developmental or intellectual disabilities and their family members. Light snacks and refreshments are available after every class to encourage socialization.