We are very excited to report that after hearing the story of REACH, Multiple Grammy winning artist, and recent recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors (among many other accolades and awards) has approved for us to use her beautiful and inspiring song on our website in conjuticon with videos of our REACH kids in action. Below is the personal message we were so honored to receive from Mrs. Estefan
REACH was founded in the fall of 2015 by Florencio Flores Palomo, after 18 years of developing, implementing, and directing aquatic programs for major centers in NYC and his home state of Nebraska,
Florencio's Mentor: Judy Hewitt
REACH founder & Executive Director
On the last day of training, three months after it began, Florencio swam across the deep side of the pool using the breaststroke Judy helped him master. Not only was this moment a huge accomplishment for him, 23 years in the making, it was the request Judy made of him immediately after that would prove to change his life and career forever. She asked him to help with a group of students she was working with in swimming and thought he would be a great help. Naturally he agreed. It happened to be that the group of students were part of the local chapter of Special Olympics.
"Starting REACH has been the best decision of my life. This is more then just a career, I truly believe with all my heart its my calling and how I intend on leaving a good mark in the world"
All of team REACH had worked previously with REACH Founder Florencio and when he made the decision to resign from his job and start REACH, they all joined him without hesitation, many leaving their jobs to take the leap of faith with him. Now after nearly four years together as a team, (the past two as Team REACH) they are more then just co-workers, they are a family; together for a common cause. Each brining their unique abilites to the team and collectively making a difference in the lives of special needs children.
All of team REACH are certified Red Cross Lifeguards, CPR certified, and each have a minimum of four years as swim instructors working directly under and learning from Florencio
It's stories like yours that make songwriting worthwhile and I feel honored to have contributed in some small way to the building of your dream. Keep doing the inspirational work that you do in health, love and happiness!
All the best,
Ashley Brian Kindia Tiffany Domenick Jonathan Kenneth
When it came time to think of a name for his newly created swim program, Florencio wanted a name that would embody the sprit and intention of of the swim academy he wanted to create. As he often did to help him with his thinking process, he turned on his iPod to get some musical inspiration. Immediately the song “REACH” started playing. A light bulb went off and Florencio thought “of course, REACH swim academy”. It was a perfect choice, the song embodies everything his swim academy would shoot for.
The summer Florencio embarked on his swim career his mother gifted him the CD "Destiny" by Gloria Estefan, a favorite artist of his. The CD contained the song "REACH" and immediately that song spoke to him on so many different levels and became his go to song to help him through the trying moments in his life.
Fast forward 21 years later, and now the Founder and owner of his own swim academy that focuses on special needs children, Florencio is far from the scared little 3 year old who nearly drowned and has become exactly what his mentor, Judy Hewitt, envisioned for him all those years ago.
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Fast forward 23 years later, at the age of 26, Florencio was offered a promotion by his supervisor with one condition; he had overcome his fears and learn how to swim being that part of his job would be overseeing the public pools. As with very other obstacle that came into his life, he took on the challenge. After several instructors failed to connect with him and his fears; A woman (whom he refers to as his swim angel) came into his life and unknowingly at the time, would prove to change his life forever. Her name was Judy Hewitt and she offered to help him get over his fears. Due to a back injury, Judy was used crutches to assist her so her getting in the pool to teach Florencio directly was not an option. Though overcome with fear about being alone in the water, he felt such a huge trust and bond with Judy that he let go of all fears and let her work her magic. Through her words, precise instruction, and the calming, nurturing energy she gave off, Judy was able to achieve what no other could before in teaching Florencio.
Unwittingly, his mother foreshadowed his future and put a plan in motion that ultimately has proven to be his "Destiny"
At the age of 3, Florencio nearly drowned after falling into a canal by the farm his family worked on during the summer in Nebraska. By pure luck, he was able to pull himself out of the shallow canal and run to the safety of his family. The event naturally traumatized him and created a fear of water so intense that even taking baths were a tramatic experience for him. Being that his family was unable to afford swim lessons, he just avoided swimming and being around open water all together.
Shortly after taking the leap of faith and resigning from his full time job to start REACH, Florencio was having a sleepless night contemplating if he had made the right choice. In his heart he knew this was his calling, however as with any major change in life, he had a few worries. In the middle of his thoughts, he heard music coming from my home office and thought he must have left his iPod on and got up to turn it off. As he got closer to his office he realized the song playing was "REACH". His emotions overtook him and he knew this was the sign he needed to let go of all doubts and move forward and continue to answer his calling.
Florencio Flores Palomo
Sadly, Ms. Judy Hewitt passed away in December of 2016 and never got the chance to see what the seeds of inspiration she planted so many years ago grew into. "She was one of the most amazing and inspiring people I have met and I feel so blessed to have been taught and mentored by her. I wish she could have seen REACH in action, I know she would have been proud but also pushing more for more would ask "whats next"; which was something she always said to me when I conquered a goal with swimming. To this day "whats next" is one of the things that keeps me going and pushing me in life and especially with REACH. She is greatly missed."
Florencio immediately bonded with the group and Judy was impressed with the rapport he had with the students and the way they gravitated to him. At the end of the day, Judy commented to him "you have a gift for working with this group and I have a feeling you are going to have a long career in aquatics working with the special needs population." Only having finished his last swim class with Judy days earlier (though happy with the compliment from his teacher and mentor) he didn't have the confidence yet to see the vision Judy had for him.
Florencio dreams of the day of opening his own aquatic center and looks forward to dedicating and naming the pool in her honor "The Judy Hewitt Learning Center"