BY TARYN FITSIK
ALBANY, N.Y. – The Capital District's Community Recreation Program for adults with disabilities is a state funded program which parents call a lifeline for their children.
It's been in existence for 38 years, but will end in just a few days.
The state's reason behind shutting down the program is because of the ongoing fiscal crisis.
Parents and lawmakers fighting to keep it running say there is no price tag you can put on the value of the program, saying the weekly events help to enrich their children's lives with activities that help them expand their social skills and become apart of the community in a very real way.
“For a child with a disability, unlike a normal child, his telephone doesn't ring with opportunities to go out with friends on a regular basis, so this has become his social circle,” says Bill VanEvera, whose son is 23 years old and has down syndrome.
VanEvera says the weekly activities that are organized through the Capital District Community Recreation program are secondary in his mind; it's the effects of the outings that are really at the forefront, when it comes to the benefits his son and so many others have received.
“It's expanded his social skills, it's enabled him to create friendships now that he will hopefully have for a long time, that otherwise may not have been fostered.”
In a letter to families sent in October, the deputy director for the Developmental Disabilities Services Office, says “While we are painfully aware that change is difficult, and many friendships have been formed from our recreation programs, we are confident that the multiple resources and services that are available through our family support services program offer new opportunities for friendship, fun and much more.”
But lawmakers and parents say no single program will be able to serve all 250 adults that it does now.
“We have every senator and every assembly person in the capital district who has signed a letter to this agency and the governor and his administration, saying we want an explanation, and we'd rather you not eliminate this program because it's having a profound impact,” says Assemblyman Jim Tedisco.
“They need to feel accepted,” adds Brigid Meyer, a parent of a daughter with down syndrome. “People with disabilities are apart of life, they are apart of everyone's life in one way or another. For them to feel acceptance makes them better people.”
Right now there are nine local legislators that are in support of keeping the program running, and all have written letters to the state commissioner, hoping for the decision to be reversed.