From April 1-3, 2016, Our House, Inc., a Murray Hill, NJ-based non-profit dedicated to providing programs and services to adults with developmental and other disabilities, led a group of participants on the experience of a lifetime when they headed up to the Frost Valley YMCA in Claryville, New York for a unique camp-like experience. For many, this was their first time away from their families and a first opportunity to enjoy a weekend of independence and adventure.
This was the fourth trip, and as evidence that the reach continues to grow, it boasted the largest number of participants ever - nearly 40 participants, most with autism. Funded by the Hope Autism Foundation, this much needed recreational program not only offers participants a unique experience away from home, but is also one of only a few respite programs available to families in New Jersey. For many of the families, the weekend is the first time that the participants and parents have been apart. This trip offers families the peace of mind to know that their adult child is in a safe and nurturing place, having fun.
“I had a parent who normally spoke to their daughter every day at the same time, it was part of their routine. So there was a concern about phone service and making sure she had the opportunity to call her mom at that time while we were away. As it turned out, the daughter had so much fun she didn’t even ask to call mom. As the director of the program this illustrates to me how safe the participants feel when they are with us,” Nicole Wehr, Our House Director of Autism Services. “Experiencing new things isn’t always easy for people with autism. It’s our hope that the moments of independence and success participants experience while at camp will stay with them and translate into other areas of their lives when they return home.”
The trip is open to any Our House participant age 21 and over who is in a residential facility or day program. Twenty staff members, including direct care staff and administration, attended the trip with the participants. Participants stayed in one of the camp’s lodges and bunked in rooms with 10 people, including a chaperone.
Over the course of the weekend, participants enjoyed activities such as arts and crafts, tie-dying, candle making, a nighttime hayride, zip lining, archery, pond exploration, canoes, kayaks, hiking and cooking classes. The highlight of the trip is always the bonfire on Saturday night where everyone enjoyed making and eating s’mores.
“I’ve seen the participants become more independent following the trip. Many have never been away from their parents before and it’s important for them to have experiences that typical young adults would have. It’s cool for them to have access to activities like zip lining that push them outside their comfort zone in an environment where they feel safe to try something new,” said Nicole. For more information on Our House, Inc. or the Our House Foundation, please visit www.ourhousenj.org.
The mission of Our House Inc. is (1) to provide healthy and stimulating environments for people with developmental and other disabilities, through the provision of community residences, employment opportunities, social programs and other supports designed to help them achieve their full potential for living meaningful and productive lives; and (2) to provide affordable housing for low income individuals, consistent with IRS guidelines for low income housing programs, as a means of relieving the poor and distressed. Our House Inc. offers programs to individuals across New Jersey in towns including: Basking Ridge, Berkeley Heights, Bound Brook, Bridgewater, Maplewood, Millington, New Providence, Newark, Summit, Union, Verona, West Orange and Westfield. They are slated to open their newest residence in Livingston in summer 2016.