New autism documentary joins forces with Easterseals


Easterseals kid Mathew Owens makes his debut on Mack and Moxy

NEW YORK — Easterseals, the country’s indispensable resource for people facing today’s disabilities, and the filmmakers behind the forthcoming documentary film SWIM TEAM, announced today that they will partner on the film’s national rollout as part of an innovative campaign to encourage inclusion and accessibility in our communities.

SWIM TEAM chronicles the extraordinary rise of the Jersey Hammerheads, a competitive swim team of teens on the autism spectrum. The film follows three of the team’s star athletes who are on the cusp of adulthood and facing the grim realities of “aging out” of public education services and supports. As they vie for state and national Special Olympics championships, SWIM TEAM captures a moving quest for inclusion, independence and accomplishments that come from hard work and dedication.

“We’re thrilled to have Easterseals’ leadership in outreach and engagement so that SWIM TEAM can inspire a nationwide audience of families and individuals living with autism,” said Lara Stolman, Director, SWIM TEAM. “Our experience filming taught us just how difficult this transition to independence is for the entire family. Easterseals is in our communities ready to support these young adults and their families—with services ranging from employment and education to housing and accessibility.”

Create Awareness

Easterseals will leverage SWIM TEAM to elevate awareness about issues raised in the film which are at the core of the organization’s mission, especially as it relates to helping the general population understand the disability experience, and the potential young adults with disabilities have well beyond the pool.

“We’re so proud to partner with a film that amplifies the voices of the disability community and introduces a new face of the American family to those who haven’t yet been touched by disability,” said Katy Neas, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, Easterseals. “In the film’s three families we see our own Easterseals families—young adults working hard to achieve big goals and their families doing everything they can to support their child’s success. As a life-long swimmer, I know the power of the pool as the place to work hard, gain perspective and dream about the future.”

Swim Team

The Swim Team

“Easterseals’ purpose to change the way the world defines and views disabilities speaks directly to the dreams of our Hammerheads athletes and their families,” said Shanna Belott, Producer, SWIM TEAM. “Our partnership will help audiences with disabilities understand that there is a community waiting for them at Easterseals, and will help typical audiences recognize the role they play in a more inclusive and welcoming society.”

World premiere

SWIM TEAM will kick off its fall film festival run with a world premiere at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, the oldest documentary film festival in the country, on Oct. 9. Following Hot Springs, SWIM TEAM will play at notable fall film festivals around the country including the Heartland Film Festival, the Napa Valley Film Festival, New Hampshire Film Festival and some yet to be announced. A theatrical run and a national community screening campaign are being planned for Autism Awareness month in April of 2017.

“We’re honored to host the world premiere of SWIM TEAM, a beautiful story that will inspire viewers of all abilities,” said Courtney Pledger, Executive Director, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. “Each year, our screening committee views nearly 1,500 films submitted from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and selects roughly 100 to be presented each year. SWIM TEAM, and their partnership with Easterseals, represents the festival’s core mission to bring cultural and social enrichment to viewers of all ages.”

SWIM TEAM was directed by award winning filmmaker Lara Stolman, and produced by award winning producersShanna Belott and Ann Collins. The film’s supporters include The New York Times, New York Women in Film and Television, the Loreen Arbus Foundation, the Karma Foundation and the Independent Filmmaker Project.

The film will be closed captioned and audio described, making it more accessible thanks to a grant from Michelle Spitz of Woman of Her Word.


SWIM TEAM chronicles the extraordinary rise of the Jersey Hammerheads, capturing a moving quest for inclusion, independence and a life that feels winning. SWIM TEAM is represented by New York-based PR firm,Falco Ink.


For nearly 100 years, Easterseals has been the indispensable resources for people and families facing disability. Through the work we do in communities across America, Easterseals is changing the way the world defines and views disability by making profound and positive differences in people’s lives every day. –  USNewswire

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