Making a Splash at Home and Abroad

Entrepreneur Marykate Galluzzo, PP-OTD ‘22, is working to make swimming safer and more accessible for children of all abilities.
Marykate in pool with client

Many lucky adults remember the joy of learning how to swim. Jumping into the water, floating weightlessly on the surface, and traversing a pool can offer feelings of freedom and happiness. Marykate (Gawron) Galluzzo, PP-OTD ‘22, is working to make swimming accessible for children of all abilities.

She founded South Shore Sunfish, an at-home adaptive swim program based out of Braintree, MA in 2019 while she was still an occupational therapy student at Tufts. Today, Galluzzo manages three adaptive swim instructors who teach basic swimming techniques and safety, helping children with disabilities to enjoy the water in a fun, supportive setting. 

Galluzzo earned her MSOT and a school-based certificate in 2020 and received her PP-OTD with a focus in pediatrics in 2022. Prior to attending Tufts, she studied psychology at UMass Amherst and worked with children with physical disabilities, visual impairments, and autism in a variety of settings including adaptive sports. 

“I was always around adaptive sports growing up,” Galluzzo reflects. “Two of my uncles are Paralympians. I myself received occupational therapy services as a kid and it had such a positive impact on my life. I have chronic pain and sensory differences, and OT was the modality that helped me the most. I also loved swimming, so all of these experiences inform the work I do today.”

At Tufts, Galluzo was introduced to many different branches of OT, but remained most interested in pediatrics and adaptive sports. She completed fieldwork placements at an inpatient community hospital, an outpatient pediatric practice, and an adaptive skiing school. Galluzzo also attended The Winter School, an occupational therapy conference in Switzerland where she learned about OT practices from an international perspective.

“Tufts really opened up my eyes to entrepreneurship and what OT can look like in nontraditional settings,” she says. “All of the opportunities I had helped me to run a successful business and be an effective OT practitioner.” In addition to operating South Shore Sunfish, she is working as an outpatient pediatric occupational therapist at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, MA, supporting youth with a variety of diagnoses.

When Covid struck and opportunities to exercise and connect with others in group settings were prohibited, Galluzzo, who has a certificate in children’s yoga, developed an online adaptive yoga aide for teenagers.

“I was looking online and I didn’t see any seated yoga guides for this population," she says. “It was such a difficult time mental health-wise and it seemed very needed. I worked with a friend who is an artist to develop the visual aide and made it available for free online. Soon people from all over the world –New Zealand, Australia, Italy– were reaching out about it. Then, I was invited by a Texas hospital to lead a seated yoga class for children with spina bifida. It was so rewarding to see a project I had undertaken as a student reach people not just domestically, but also internationally.”

Galluzzo is currently working on an adaptive swimming protocol called The Sunfish Method, designed to help everyday swim instructors across the world make swimming accessible for children of all abilities. “Children with disabilities have much higher rates of drowning than children without disabilities,” says Galluzzo. “I truly believe I’m saving lives with the work I do. Being able to give kids and their families the joy of swimming and being around water safely is a precious gift. I work with a lot of grateful parents and kids - it’s a wonderful feeling.”