Jen Knott began Rec2Connect in 2009, after discovering the lack of resources in the community in aquatic therapy and recreational therapy services for people with special needs. With the help of her own family as well as the families with which she worked, Jen took the plunge and opened her own business.
With a staff of 15 Rec2Connect offers several programs, including aquatic therapy classes (most popular), adaptive aquatics where adapted swimming goals are worked on, and a swim team that holds practices and swim meets year-round.
Before she found her passion for aquatic and recreational therapy for those with special needs, her journey began at Kent State University as a pre-med major with her intention of becoming a pediatrician. During this time Jen realized she wanted to change paths, and she explored her interests and the reasons she wanted to get into the medical field in the first place. She was passionate about helping people, but also loved participating in sports (Jen still plays recreational soccer today!), so she decided to speak with an advisor about her options. While discussing different specializations within the recreational therapy major, she recalled her frequent participant in special-needs dances with her cousin in grade school. She then realized she wanted her focus to be on providing recreational therapy for people with special needs.
Just five years after beginning Rec2Connect, Jen launched the Rec2connect Foundation in 2014– a non-profit with a mission to “enhance and enrich the lives of individuals with special needs in recreation, leisure, and sports”. As an all-volunteer-run organization, the Rec2connect Foundation aims to provide scholarships to individuals with special needs for recreational programs, create low-cost family recreation classes, and encourage partnerships with existing recreation classes and organizations to provide new opportunities for those with special needs.
Jen says the future goal is to open their own central recreation center which would include a pool, a gym, and services that would be accessible to individuals with special needs and their families. “It would be a place where families could go for aquatic and recreation therapy for their children, but also could go to exercise as well”, she explains. The plans also include expansion to camps, more land-based recreation therapy programs, and school/group home partnerships, in order to provide more individualized services.
When discussing the most rewarding parts of her job, Jen explains that her team has heard first words, has seen first steps, and has built connections and relationships that will last a lifetime. “These moments are priceless, and I am honored to be a part of all of our clients’ lives and journey.”