Familiar face leaves the Wilton Family Y

After 10 years at the Wilton Family Y, Special Needs Coordinator Gloria Bass is hanging up her yellow and orange T-shirt — and looking back on a legacy that includes being named a “local hero” in 2008 by We Belong! Inclusion in Fairfield County.

“I tried to make it easier for parents and children with special needs,” said Ms. Bass, who left her post at the beginning of the year.

Ms. Bass said she will “continue to reach out” by working with the Special Olympics, and with such programs as Advocacy with Faith, a special education advocate and expert that offers various workshops.

Ms. Bass received the “local hero” award for her efforts to assimilate special needs children into the Y’s programs, such as Camp Gordyland in the summer, which is fully inclusive, or Friends and Buddies, in which approximately eight special needs children play basketball and swim with high school volunteers two Fridays a month.

Anne Eason, a special education attorney with spedlawyers.com, said Ms. Bass’s work “to see that the entire Wilton Y is non-discriminatory … has catapulted the Wilton Y as a national role model.”

Robert McDowell, executive director of the Wilton Y, described his admiration for Ms. Bass’s work and said the Y hopes to continue the programs she supervised and instituted.

The inclusive programs help build confidence for special needs children in a way that is perhaps unimaginable to typical children, Ms. Bass said.

“Inclusion teaches compassion, understanding and patience for typical children and gives special needs children self-esteem and friendships,” she said. “Friendships are so important to these children. They want to go to birthday parties and have friends, like everyone does. … These children just wanted to be treated fairly.”