Over the past few months, the CARS Recreation Therapy Department has been working on increasing leisure skills and community connections with our clients.
In the Fall of 2017, CARS’ Vocational Counselor, Jennifer Forward and Recreation Therapist, Monica Weimer, CTRS, created The Pumpkin Project to show clients that they can have an impact on the community, even though they were going to be spending the next few weeks at the RARC. The project was to paint mini pumpkins with of their choosing and the staff of CARS would collect the painted pumpkins and distribute them throughout various communities. The staff took pictures of the pumpkins and created a slideshow at the end of the project to show the clients where their pumpkins ended up. This allowed the clients to understand that small actions could make a big impact on the community.
We have brought in students from Cornell’s Alpha Phi Omega (APO) Service Fraternity, who come to CARS RARC about 3 times a month to volunteer. The students have been teaching clients new science-based skills such as origami, making slime, making rock candy, and making a self-watering planter out of used water bottles.
Another activity that connects our clients with the community is the knitting and crocheting project they are participating in. The Recreation Therapist has been reaching out to community members asking for donations of yarn so clients can crochet and knit hats, scarves, and blankets to be donated to various organizations to help those in need. Clients learn how to knit and crochet from one another, increasing their social skills and learning something new. A new volunteer organization, Knit with Care, out of Cornell, will be coming to CARS RARC to host knitting circles to work on community projects to donate and to teach clients who are interested how to knit and crochet. Clients are very proud of the warm clothing they are making for someone in need, and attach notes to their items, sharing words of love and encouragement.
Coming Spring 2018, the CARS Community Garden will be up and running. Gardening has many benefits, such as increasing social skills, feeling more connected to Earth, being a part of something bigger than yourself, exposure to the sun and fresh air, increasing fine motor skills, aerobic exercise, and education and knowledge about plants and where our food comes from. Also in development is an Exercise Group, focusing on exercises that use the clients’ body weight and little to no equipment so they can easily transfer their skills when they leave for home. There will be a new Nutrition class that focuses on choosing and preparing affordable, healthy food to assist in the clients’ steps toward a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle. In development is a walking trail that spans the campus, increasing the clients’ access to exercise
outside and their interactions and appreciation for nature, which has been shown to improve mental health and alleviate some symptoms of depression. With the return of spring, clients have been bird watching, taking advantage of the many bird feeders on campus. Bird watching increased clients’ mindfulness, patience, observation skills, social skills, and attention to detail.