Rory and Joanne Suomi from the SNAP program's early years.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Rory and Joanne Suomi from the SNAP program's early years.

The Special Needs Aquatics Program at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point created a ripple effect extending halfway around the globe.

SNAP was developed in 1992 by professor of physical education Rory Suomi and his wife, Joanne Suomi, an aquatics instructor with a Ph.D. in special education and an M.S. in adapted physical education. The pool serves disabled individuals and children learning to swim.

It’s proven to be a valuable resource locally as well as internationally.

In 2013, SNAP was selected to participate in a two-way international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and Mobility International USA. The program sent Joanne, a master teacher in adapted aquatics, to lead workshops in Guangzhou, China. There, she trained aquatics directors and physical therapists, among others, on how to teach people with disabilities to swim. The curriculum was sorely needed in a nation where few pools accommodate the disabled.

This wasn’t her first mission abroad. She participated in a similar program in Australia.

Sadly, Joanne Suomi passed away last September after a hard-fought battle with cancer. She was 57. But her dedication to aquatics lives on at the university’s new Suomi Family Aquatics Classroom.

Rory and his daughter, Samara, at the dedication of the Suomi Family Aquatics Classroom.
Eva Donohoo Rory and his daughter, Samara, at the dedication of the Suomi Family Aquatics Classroom.