WILMINGTON, N.C. — Coastal Buds in Wilmington capped out their summer by bringing in the iCan Swim program with a camp designed specifically to teach kids with disabilities how to swim.


What You Need To Know

iCan Swim teaches kids with disabilities basic water safety skills

Kids attend the camp an hour a day for one week

The program is open to children with any disability ages 3 and up


Ivy Satterwhite is a special needs teacher turned swim instructor come summertime, and she spends her only two months off during the year traveling from state to state helping kids learn lifesaving skills. 

“We brought this program to our facility because we needed it in the community, and I saw it and said 'That is exactly what I want to do in the summertime,'” Satterwhite said. 

Ivy Satterwhite and a camper celebrate after he swims to her in the pool

But because it's her passion it never feels like work, and the bonds she builds with each child and their family last far longer than the one week camp. In the three years she's been on staff with iCan Swim she's worked with over 200 kids and says this is her way of changing lives. 

“My motto is to make a difference in someone's life everyday, and if this is the way that I can do it, this is what I'm doing - saving lives one day at a time,” Satterwhite said. 

Many people with disabilities are naturally trusting and friendly, which makes building relationships with them from the first day easy. However, it also reveals why this camp is so important in the first place. Bodies of water are part of our everyday life, especially on the coast, but for a child who may not understand the danger of their environment, something as small as a pool, let alone an ocean, could be deadly.

A camper swims with volunteers in the pool

“A lot of people with disabilities elope, meaning they run away,” Satterwhite said.  “So we want to equip them with those skills that if they run away and they fall into a large body of water, they are able to get on their back, they are able to float and even call for help because their faces are out of the water.”

Satterwhite says she never sees the disabilities in each of these children, she only sees what they are capable of. Her goal is to show them that can be anything they set their mind to – including swimming. 

“That does not define you,” Satterwhite said. “We don't want to judge people by the way that they look or how they present themselves, we want to get to know them and the sky is limitless - let's take them to the sky.”