At the YMCA of Greenville, we work tirelessly to create a place for all to belong. This year, we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the YMCA of Greenville’s signature program for post-high school adults with diverse abilities: RECESS (Recreation, Education, Community, Exercise, Social and Service). The program fosters the growth of each participant by providing opportunities to learn about nutrition, fitness, social responsibility, community outreach, and independent living skills. RECESS allows adults with diverse abilities not only a place to grow their practical life experience, but also gives them a place to connect with friends and gain a sense of belonging.

    The creation of RECESS was inspired by a young man who visited the Y often, looking for a place to make friends and connect to his community, just like every other member that walks through the doors of the YMCA. His family knew the Y’s mission: to serve all. Our YMCA recognized the need and responded in 2013 by partnering with the Barbara Stone Foundation to create this dynamic signature program.  RECESS began with 5 participants at the Caine Halter Family YMCA.  In its 10 years, it has grown to now serve 73 participants in four different classes. Families can choose to attend the program at one of three locations: Caine Halter Family YMCA in Greenville, Eastside Family YMCA in Taylors, or YMCA Program Center in Simpsonville. RECESS is unique in that it offers a continuous yearlong opportunity for participants to grow, learn, and engage with the world around them.

    RECESS allows individuals with disabilities to experience life as part of the greater community rather than sitting on the sidelines, watching from a distance. The program emphasizes volunteerism, service, and continued learning both during scheduled curriculum days, and also during social events. The program has helped individuals gain the needed skills to volunteer independently while at the Y as well as other mission-driven organizations, such as Meals on Wheels.  Through community partnerships, RECESS participants are given the chance to make a difference by assisting with the needed “sweat equity hours” at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, baking cookies for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, and developing relationships with residents at the Windsor House (an assisted living facility in Greenville).  In addition to becoming more autonomous as individuals, RECESS participants learn the value of civic responsibilities. One class learned the importance of registering to vote and then visited their local city council. While there, they had the opportunity to meet the mayor and learn how their vote impacts their local communities.

    RECESS makes a tremendous impact on the lives of each person served. The families of our participants have shared that RECESS has boosted confidence, promoted independence, created peer interactions and friendship opportunities, and resulted in an overall increase feeling of happiness. Kelly Lusk expressed her gratitude for the program, “Our son, Cameron is diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, Seizure Disorder and OCD. He graduated from high school at 21 years old and we were in a total state of panic as to what to do and where to go next.  Our search for a program where he didn’t just sit in a chair all day long proved to be completely unattainable in this area. We had literally prayed for a program for over 5 years in anticipation of the day he would no longer be able to attend school. When we learned of RECESS, we knew our prayers had been answered. The RECESS Program and all the instructors involved are absolute answers to our prayers and blessings to our lives. We cannot imagine life without RECESS.”

     

    Aside from the community engagement, service opportunities, and learning experiences, RECESS participants want the same thing out of life that we all do: to experience life with friends and have fun while doing it! Bowling, mini golf, dance parties, holiday gatherings, and playing games are just a few of the activities that we engage in!

    The need for our program to expand is an urgent one, and the YMCA of Greenville is here to answer the call by providing a high-quality experience for these incredible individuals living in the Greenville community. Over the next 10 years, the YMCA of Greenville will continue to identify chances to offer this life-changing program, and we look forward to partnering with community agencies to fill the gap for people with diverse abilities.

    To learn more about RECESS, contact Rebekah Cunningham, RECESS Program Manager at rebekah.cunningham@ymcagreenville or Click Here to be directed to the website.