"you truly do have a have a gift and I have a feeling you are going to have a long career in aquatics working with the special needs population... this is your calling"
*Special Thanks to Mrs. Gloria Estefan for granting us permission for use of her song "REACH" for this video
Florencio was sitting at his desk in his home office, trying to find a name that would best describe everything he wanted people to embrace about his program (defying odds, inclusiveness, family atmosphere, joy, striving for the best) he plugged his iPod into its' dock and hit play. The first song that began to play was "REACH" by Gloria Estefan. The lyrics spoke to him..
"you can do it...just try"
hen it came to finding the perfect name for his new swim acadmey, once again "destiny" stepped in.
"...this is your calling"
With that encouragement and drive to succeed, he accepted the job and challenge to learn to swim. After several instructors failed to connect with him and his fears; he was introduced to Judy Hewitt, whom he calls his "swim angel". Judy had a strong career as a swim instructor however, due to a back injury she was confined to arm braces so getting into the pool to help Florencio was not an option. From the pool deck she helped him navigate through his fears with her precise instruction, understanding of his fears, and nurturing energy. He felt such a huge trust and bond with her that he began to let go of all his fears. Over the course of three months, Judy worked her magic and helped Florencio get over his fears, taught him to swim, and helped keep his job.
"if you leave we leave, we want to be a part of this dream"
-Florencio Flores Palomo; REACH Founder & Executive Director
Florencio's & his Hero, his Father
EACH Founder, Florencio Flores Palomo, was born and raised in the
It was Gloria Estefan's "Destiny" CD which featured the song "REACH".
"I saw your face light up when you heard the song and I wanted you to always have it now for whenever you need to be reminded you will be ok"
From that point on "REACH" became his anthem anytime he needed an extra push to get through life's challenges. Little did he know that this gift of "Destiny" was truly a sign for of the destiny that was waiting for him.
Fast forward to July of 2015, a few weeks after he resigned from his full time he was up late planning all that was needed to make his new swim acadmey a success, he started to worry if he had made the right
On the last day of lessons, Judy had one request of him; to help her with a group of students she was working with. Though unsure of how big of a help he could be, being that he was not sure if he was ready to teach, she assured him he had the kind of heart her students needed and not to worry. The group of students happened to be the local Nebraska chapter of Special Olympics. Florencio immediately bonded with them and Judy was impressed with the rapport he had with the students and the way they naturally gravitated to him. At the end of the day Judy commented to him
that could successfully teach
right...this is his calling
resignation and began to plan the first swim season of REACH for Fall 2015. Just like years earlier at the Yale Club, word quickly spread and within a few months the first season was sold out.
Having just learned the basics of swimming just days earlier (though happy to hear this compliment) Florencio couldn't grasp the vision Judy saw for him and how her simple act of kindness and patience would prove to change his life and put him on the path to his destiny.
Looking back, Florencio credits his father. and Judy for pushing him through his fears and believing in him. His swim angel was
"the more I believe, all the more that this dream will be mine"
his fears, he would
small rural town of Gering, Nebraska.
REACH swim academy. When he informed his lead aquatic staff their reaction warmed Florencio's heart
"You can do it, and this is a very good opportunity for you, just try, you don't know where this opportunity can take you"
Over the course of the next 17 years, Florencio continued to build his career and reputation working as a manager, and director at many big aquatic centers in NYC as well as teaching privately throughout NYC. In May of 2015, wanting to create a bigger impact in aquatics and create a more inclusive swim program geared to those kids who sadly are often times left behind, he took a leap of faith and resigned from his aquatic director position and started
Instantly he knew "REACH swim academy" was the perfect name. A place where kids could REACH above and beyond all expectations that were put on them and "rise above the stars" as the lyrics so beautifully state. Interestingly enough, this song had played a very significant role in his life from the beginning of his aquatic career so this chance playing on his iPod seemed like destiny.
In the summer of 1996, a few months prior to Florencio starting his aquatic career, he was back working on a farm in Nebraska contemplating his next career move. He was a little withdrawn at the time but music always kept him centered. One afternoon after coming from work on the farm, his mother has a surprise for him.
At the request of members, Florencio started teaching private swim lessons to the children of the club members. Quickly word spread and "Club Florenico" (as the kids called it)
a following for being the instructor
-Florencio Flores Palomo;
REACH Founder & Executive Director
decision. He never doubted his passion for what he wanted to do but leaving the security of a full-time job and utilizing his life's savings to start his dream was a bit daunting. Both his parents had passed away at this time and he didn't have them to call to get reassurance so he closed his eyes in prayer and just asked for a sign, any sign. As he was laying in silence he heard the soft sound of music coming from his home office. When he got up to go turn his iPod off, he was stunned in amazement as he started to recognize the song playing....it was REACH. Needles to say this was the sign he needed to remind him "you will be ok" just as his mother told him years earlier. This moment still brings chills to Florencio as well as a sense of confidence that he did make the right choice and....
Together they turned in their
community. The job offer came with one condition, he had to learn how to swim. Terrified at the thought of facing his fears, but also knowing this was a great opportunity, Florencio turned to the person who always was there to help him with life's challenges; his father.
have never found
and if he never faced
After nearly two successful years in his recreation specialist position, Florencio, wanting to make a life move, accepted a pool manager job at the Yale Club of NYC and moved from rural Nebraska to NYC.
was in full force and he began to build
"Starting REACH has been the best decision of my life...I truly believe REACH is my calling and how I intend on leaving a good mark in the world"
this (as the name of the CD states) was his "Destiny"
Two years after starting REACH, Florencio reached out to Mrs. Estefan with his story and asked for permission to use her inspiring song for this website along with videos of the REACH kids. She graciously agreed to let him use the song and sent along a very touching note....
At the age of 3, while playing near a canal by the farm his family worked on during the summer months, he slipped and fell in and nearly drowned. By the grace of God, he was able to grab onto some weeds and pull himself up to safety. The event created such an intense fear of water in him that taking a bath was a nightmare for him. This fear stayed with him until the age of 26 when a career opportunity forced him to face his fears head on and put him on the path to his destiny. Florencio was offered a job as "Recreation Specialist" for his
FOUNDED in 2015 by Florencio Flores Palomo whom after 19 years working in aquatics wanted to create a swim program that was unique and set itself apart from all others. One where children of all abilities and needs could come together in a nurturing and inclusive environment to conquer their fears, learn to swim, and socialize---creating a truly unique learning experience.
to swim those kids
-Florencio's "swim angel"
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,