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Park District Board Gets Up-Close Look at Special Recreation Association

The five Oswegoland Park Board members took a tour of the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association's headquarters in Aurora on Thursday. The OPD has been a member of the association since 2004.

The Oswegoland Park District has been a member of the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association for eight years. On Wednesday, the five Park Board commissioners got to see first hand just what the FVSRA does. And they came away impressed.

The Park Board convened a special meeting on Wednesday to tour the FVSRA headquarters, located in the Vaughan Athletic Center in Aurora. There they heard from Executive Director Carolyn Nagle, but more importantly, they got to see the interaction FVSRA staff has with those using its services.

They watched as Laurie Schaefer reached the members of the STARS (Structurized Therapeutic Adult Recreation Services) program through music. The program works with adults with mental and physical disabilities, bringing them together as a group and getting them to communicate.

They saw part of the Beyond the Stars Day Camp, for those between 21 and 30, who were negotiating an obstacle course in one of the gymnasiums. And they got to see just how well the trained staff at FVSRA – 15 of them, plus part-timers, all certified through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification – works with those with disabilities, getting them to feel comfortable and safe.

The FVSRA has been around for 36 years, and is currently supported by seven member park districts: Oswegoland, Fox Valley, St. Charles, Sugar Grove, Batavia, Geneva and South Elgin. In the last fiscal year, the OPD paid roughly $203,000 to be part of the organization, according to Rich Zielke, the district’s executive director.

In return for that money, residents of the park district with special needs can sign up for FVSRA’s classes and events at a reduced rate. And several of those events are held in Park District facilities, including the annual Camp Shining Stars at South Point in Oswego.

Nagle said the demand for FVSRA’s programs has been growing, even though the agency’s geographical reach has not. Last year the association served 257 people, with another 49 in their inclusion program. This year they’re at an even 400: 335 clients, with 65 in the inclusion placements.

Nagle said more people are becoming aware of the FVSRA and the services it offers, which accounts for the uptick.

“Even after 36 years, people still don’t know about us,” she said. “If you don’t have a family member with special needs, you probably don’t know who we are.”

Park Board Chairman Bob Mattingly praised former Executive Director Bill McAdam for spearheading the effort to join the FVSRA. He said the district is now much more able to serve its residents with special needs.

And all agreed that seeing first-hand what the organization does made a big difference.

“It does give it a different spin to see the programs in action,” Zielke said. “It’s a wonderful partnership.”

For more on the FVSRA, check out their website.

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