Open up the SEASPAR digital brochure and you’re sure to find something — or plenty of somethings — that will spark the interest of a family member with special needs. But that’s just the start for families in the special recreation association’s communities.
Of course, there are a wide range of sports offered year-round for people with physical or cognitive disabilities. But some might be surprised to discover Parents’ Night Out events, school break camps, fun teen and adult outings, walking clubs, virtual cooking classes and dance parties, a glee club, and an adult day program among the pages of offerings.
In addition, SEASPAR responded to the growing demand from families with sensory seekers to have a place created just for them, recently adding a second sensory room to its offerings. Now families can visit the award-winning Wonders Multi-Sensory Room in Lisle and the new Ray’s Bay Multi-Sensory Room in Western Springs.
What you won’t find are cookie-cutter programs that miss the mark when it comes to local families’ interests and needs, says William Cazares, SEASPAR’s marketing coordinator.
“Our programs are top notch. Our coordinators go out of their way to make sure our programs are not only adapted to our participants’ needs, but rewarding at the same time,” he says. “We live and breathe special recreation. We are an organization that families can trust with the most precious thing in their lives, their children, and we’re going to provide the services that they not only require, but they deserve.”
Although its offices are located in Downers Grove, SEASPAR provides quality services and recreation for residents of all ages with special needs served by its 12 members in Cook and DuPage counties, including the Village of Brookfield, Clarendon Hills Park District, Darien Park District, Downers Grove Park District, Village of Indian Head Park, Park District of La Grange, Community Park District of La Grange Park, Lemont Park District, Lisle Park District, Village of Western Springs, Westmont Park District and Woodridge Park District.
The special recreation association is set up so that a family can take advantage of any program in any of the entities, not just where they happen to live.
Here, Cazares shares a few great reasons why taking advantage of what SEASPAR has to offer can really help families.
At SEASPAR, families will find themselves feeling normalcy and support, he says.
“Families and participants becoming part of the SEASPAR family will be surrounded by not only professionals who can act as resources for them, but other families who are dealing with the same situations as they are,” he says. “A parent of a child with disabilities faces challenges on a daily basis and sometimes they can feel isolated, they can feel alone.”
It’s in those situations where SEASPAR shines. It offers a helping hand, information, and a community of people who truly understand, he says.
Recreation alone might be reason enough to seek out SEASPAR’s programs. But as far as Cazares is concerned, that is not the most amazing benefit. It’s the relationships built while taking part in the activities, he says.
He’s watched those early relationships grow into friendships and eventually move into BFF status. Not only do participants seek each other out at events, both through SEASPAR and through community activities, but their families also become intertwined.
“At the end of the day, these relationships fulfill part of our vision – to help participants achieve potential,” he says.
Part of Cazares’ role is to attend events and activities where he captures those budding friendships and big smiles in photographs. It’s those “feel good moments” and stories of success that fuel the SEASPAR mission and the passion its staff and volunteers share in doing what they do, he says.
Participants are so proud of their accomplishments and of their friendships, he says, including those with staff and volunteers. “At its core, SEASPAR is people coming together to enrich the lives of people with disabilities by providing the high-quality recreational, social, and educational opportunities they deserve,” he says. “Being a part of a participant’s growth and development, or even just helping them have a good time, makes the programming just as rewarding for SEASPAR’s staff and volunteers as it is for the participants.”