Forsyth County Parks and Recreation’s Therapeutic Recreation is celebrating three years of special programs for those with disabilities. They are also excited to look to the future as they continue to grow. In fact, they just announced that they were able to add 10 new programs last year, despite the COVID-19 challenges.
Including the addition of the new ongoing programs, the program saw a year-over-year membership growth of 32% and offered several new out-of-school programs. “We are very excited about the future of the therapeutic rec programs,” said Parks & Recreation Director, Jim Pryor. “We have seen great interest from the Forsyth County community in the offerings created over the past three years and we are working on creating more opportunities for 2021 and beyond.”
The Therapeutic Recreation program offers activities for kids, or adults, with special needs, according to supervisor Jeffery Jones. “We are relatively young for a therapeutic program, but have had tremendous support from the community and the county government. In three years we have done a lot and we have a lot going on.” He says that the programs try to provide the same standard recreation programs that anyone else in the community would attend. That includes art programs, music, sports, a fitness program, social activities, like dances and holiday parties. It also means summer camps and special activities.
Although 2020 brought some challenges, Jones says it was still important to continue growing the program. “2020 was our first outdoor adventure program. We added some music and art programs and two new fitness programs. When we annually set our goals, we look to increase the opportunities, keep what works and eliminate programs that aren’t as popular.”
One of the other things they added last year was a special camp for children with Down Syndrome. “That was one of the new programs in 2020 and that was a big success. We had 25 kids with Down Syndrome to go to camp and parents really enjoyed that because it was a special needs program geared just for those kids.”
They offer summer camps for all the kids – in fact, this summer they will offer 18 different camps while kids are out of school. They also provide camps throughout the year, as well. Every time school has a break, they offer a welcoming place for the students to come spend their free time. “Every time school has vacation – spring break, fall break – kids can come to camp and do activities,” says Jones.
The programs are for all ages. The majority of participants are between ages 6-22, thanks to the cooperation of the local school system. However, Jones says there are a growing number of adults who are participating, as well. “We are open to anybody with any kind of disability or special needs in the county, or even out of the county. A lot of surrounding communities don’t have a therapeutic recreation program, and so we are welcome to having those folks too,” he says.
For Jones, it’s important to provide an opportunity for those with disabilities to do things that they normally wouldn’t be able to do. “The most rewarding part is to see the enjoyment our participants get out of a program. Seeing them develop relationships and having fun really make the job worthwhile,” he says.
Jones hopes anyone will take advantage of the programs, even those who may not have the fund to participate. A scholarship program provides a way for low-income families to participate in a camp or program. “Please call us if you want to join in and funds are an issue. We have a great scholarship opportunity with the Parks Department Foundation. There are scholarships to let those kids participate.”
He also adds that the community can get involved, as well. There are multiple opportunities where volunteers can join in. One way is by being a “program buddy.” These volunteers help the participants by giving them individual assistance where they might need it.
He also says that they are always looking for new programs to add. “For anyone who has a particular hobby or talent or talent, we are always looking for instructors to come do programs for us. We have a great music instructor and someone to lead yoga and aerobics, but we are always looking for new opportunities for our kids to do programs.” He encourages those with special skills to get involved. “If you have a talent out there and want to share it with our group, give us a call.”
If you would like more information on this program, go to parks.forsythco.com and look under therapeutic recreation.