Photo Information

David Cunningham, son of Asheley and Ricardo Cunningham, plays with Josh Cole, Marine Corps Community Services aquatics director, during the Exceptional Family Member Program swimming session at the Laurel Bay community center pool, July 2. David is diagnosed with autism and has participated in numerous swimming sessions provided by the EFMP.

Photo by Cpl. Rubin J. Tan

Swim, splash, play with EFMP

15 Jul 2013 | Cpl. Rubin J. Tan

"David was so afraid of the water he would just cry to the point any mother would feel the instinct to save their child," said Asheley Cunningham, mother of David and Ricardo Cunningham.

David and Ricardo participate in the Exceptional Family Member Program’s modified swimming sessions for family members who require special medical or educational services based upon a diagnosed physical, psychological or educational need.

What may look like toys during the sessions are specialized aquatic equipment utilized to assist with low impact exercise and enhancing confidence while in the water.

"If you see David today and a video of the first session his family attended you will not believe your eyes," said Yucel Henderson, EFMP outreach specialist. "He has made a complete turn around with confidence in the water."

A lift is also available to aid family members with mobile disabilities to get in and out of the pool. The lift uses water displacement to allow the body to move more freely, giving extra mobility to disabled members.

Water aerobics allow the body to exercise in a low-impact environment resulting in reduced chances of muscle injury and soreness.

"The sessions encourage our participants to become more familiar with swimming while supporting physical activity, social benefits and instilling safety," said Henderson, a native of Houston. "It’s all just one step to becoming safer."

Parents of exceptional family members were also able to bring children without special needs to participate in the swimming sessions.

"It’s great to have events like these because it helps other families know they are not alone and there are resources available to help," said Cunningham, spouse of Sgt. Ricardo Cunningham, a drill instructor with 2nd Recruit Training Battalion.

The Marine Corps mandates all family members who require special needs to be enrolled into the EFMP to provide sponsors and families with knowledge, skills and support.

Swimming sessions are held at the Naval Hospital Beaufort and Laurel Bay community center pool from 9 to 10:30 a.m., on scheduled days. For reservations contact Henderson at 228-3849/2041. More information and the session schedule can be found at the Marine Corps Community Services website,