New Beginnings – Challenges Remain

Last week marked the official start of a new chapter for Ability Connection. We received the Crystal Charity Ball funding for our new Camp Connections Program to serve teens (ages 12-17) in Dallas County. The program will consist of three components. First, we will host an 8 week summer program for 100 students that will focus on a mix of academic and recreational activities. Each student and their family will select three goals from their Individual Education Plan (IEP). Individual instruction will focus on those goals to assist each student in maintaining the gains made during the regular school year. The first summer program will be hosted by Cochran Chapel United Methodist Church. In the second and third years of the program, we will add additional sites. The initial summer program starts on June 7th.

The second component will be caregiver relief (respite). Families and caregivers can take a break from caring for their teen with a disability while that teen enjoys an evening or day of recreation and fun. Respite will be available on the first and third Fridays of the month from 6:00 to 10:00pm and on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. Respite will take place at our main facility at 8802 Harry Hines Blvd in Dallas. The respite program will kick off on Friday, May 7th

Lastly, Camp Connections will offer a School Holiday program. We will offer a fun and active day for teens with disabilities on school holidays. This provides a viable option for working families who need a safe and stimulating environment for their loved one on school holidays.

Over the next three years, Ability Connection, through Camp Connections, will serve an additional 750 teens. We are so excited to have this opportunity to reach this group of teens in Dallas County.

Yet, there is so much more to do, and we need the community’s support to meet the challenges before us. Sadly, several other organizations that provided day programming for adults with disabilities did not survive the pandemic. We have been inundated with calls from families requesting that a family member attend our training centers or asking if we could establish training centers in other locations.

Over 168,000 people remain on the waiting list for Medicaid Waiver Services. Many of these families have no other options for services and supports for their family member. We are committed to finding ways to reach some of these families and provide services, either through self- funding or with financial assistance. We also receive requests to expand caregiver relief or respite to serve adults with disabilities.

We are so grateful for the opportunity we have been given to serve adults and children with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Together we can make an even more significant impact in the community by supporting additional people with disabilities and the families that love them.