Grant to Upstate Foundation helps create special gym for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities
The Upstate Foundation has received a $50,000 grant from the Central New York Community Foundation to create a special place that promotes physical activity and wellness for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The space is called the Golisano Center for Special Needs-Access CNY Sensory Movement Exploration Center (SMEC) and it is jam-packed with innovative equipment, enabling participation in different activities. The room features pediatric power wheelchairs, partial weight support systems, sensory swings, vibration plates, a climbing wall and a sensory pathway with an interactive “village” that features an Erie Canal lock and an Adirondack forest. It also serves as a resource center where families can learn about inclusive outdoor recreation and borrow adaptive sports equipment from a lending library.
“Having a space like this exposes the wider community to adaptive sports and inclusive recreation,” said pediatrician Nienke Dosa, MD, MPH, medical director of Upstate’s Spina Bifida Clinic, the Upstate Foundation Professor of Child Health Policy and medical director of Access-CNY. “Fostering this engagement both improves life for the child who uses the assistive technology and provides parents, families and community members with purpose and appreciation of multiple forms of ability.”
Dosa continued, “It’s freeing to be in this space,” she said. “Parents love to see their children here. It links the medical piece and therapy services with community resources for wellness and recreation. Like a village, this is a place that brings people together.”
Connor McGough of Arise Adaptive Design, along with therapists from area schools, designed the sensory pathway. Student volunteers from the Norton College of Medicine “Art Alliance” helped to build the village structures.
The space is available by referral for physical therapy, occupational therapy and applied behavior analysis. The space is also available for group workshops and serves as a “Try It” space for Access-CNY’s assistive technology loan closet.
To date, the Upstate Foundation has successfully piloted four group therapy programs at the center and hosted a well-attended daylong regional workshop for children who are deaf-blind.
The center also provides area college students with volunteer opportunities and has already hosted students from SUNY Cortland, SUNY Brockport and physical therapy and medical students from Upstate Medical University.
Eileen Pezzi, MPA, executive director of the Upstate Foundation and Upstate vice president for Development, is grateful for the support from the Central New York Community Foundation. “This funding will help change the lives of many of our patients and extend the efforts of our Golisano Center for Special Needs,” Pezzi said. “Our community always puts a priority on ensuring kids are supported in meaningful ways.”
“All individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve to live with dignity and have the supports they need to fully participate in our community,” said Danielle Johnson, senior director of grants & programs at the Central New York Community Foundation. “We are proud to support the Upstate Foundation’s renovation of the adaptive center to ensure that all children have opportunities to build independence and reach their fullest potential.”
“AccessCNY was created to meet the evolving needs of the community,” said Paul Joslyn, AccessCNY executive director. “The new SMEC is a perfect blend of clinical supports, inclusive recreation and community. We are grateful for our partnership with the Golisano Center for Special Needs and the Central New York Community Foundation to make this new space at AccessCNY a reality. Together we are working to create a community where all people belong.”
The SMEC held an open house last month for parents, children and supporters.
Caption: Golisano Center for Special Needs-Access CNY Sensory Movement Exploration Center (SMEC) features innovative equipment, enabling participation in different activities.