Deep in the heartland of Harrisonburg, Virginia sits a place referred to by the locals as “The Arc.” As the name suggests, it’s a place of refuge for people with disabilities. Chase Imoru puts it best: “We assist clients with personal goals that they have that they and their caretakers or their caregivers have helped them to come up with, about things that will help them on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s temper issues, or socializing skills, or learning how to write their contact information or reading. We also try to help them develop soft skills for employment, so we take them out into sites, volunteer in the community, try to encourage them to interact with other people and hopefully help them build those relationships in the community so they can form natural supports in the community, people who know and recognize them.” Imoru goes on to state that because of budgetary restrictions, sometimes they’re forced to make hard choices; it’s either snack time for that day or physical activity. It was clear to me when I sat down with them that those days are few and far between, but those days still come.
For example, Terri Gibbs, Director of Support Services, wanted to take a group of people to Mulligan’s for a round of golf, but she knew that the budget didn’t allow for a group of their size to go to Mulligan’s. Luckily the Shenandoah Valley Inclusive Wellness Coalition was able to step and front the bill due to our scholarship program. This program is made in such a way where individuals and organizations could apply for scholarships who maybe have a program they would like to go to in the Shenandoah Valley but can’t afford it due to medical bills or other financial troubles. The scholarship had already seen success on a small scale with individuals, but this is the first time they were able to fun something for an entire organization.
The Shenandoah Valley Inclusive Wellness Coalition asked for a follow-up about the mini-golf experience. They sent me, their project assistant coordinator, to gather their responses. I was privileged to sit down with various residents and record their responses. As to be expected, there were some in-between responses but others were overall positive. Dick Simon, a 56-year-old resident, stated they were in a group going around to all the different holes. He uses the walker so it was kind of a challenge learning how to putt the ball and use the walker at the same time. He thinks being active is important because if you’re not active, you’re just lazy, and he tries to keep on pushing himself. Likewise, a 28-year-old recounts her experience. She honestly admits not looking forward to playing a game of mini-golf, but when she got there what she says helped her is the fellow staff members walking beside her and playing with her.
Overall, my experience at The Arc was invaluable because it showed that there is a real financial need in our community, and we need programs like the scholarships to continue, so every disabled person has a chance to hit a hole in one, metaphorically and physically.