Participation in the local community has long been a key tenet of Keuka College’s approach to education. So when students in Keuka College’s Behavioral Science Association (BSA), helped plan a one-day event for families at Wellness G.I.F.T.S. (Giving Inspiration For The Soul)’s Spring Educational Networking Socialization Event, they jumped at the chance.
Three of those members—Ashley Rocker, Bobby Fogle, Taylor Kuter—also serve on the Board of Directors of Wellness G.I.F.T.S. Ashley serves as treasurer, Bobby as vice president, and Taylor assists in the arts and crafts tent.
Nicole Blough, director of Wellness G.I.F.T.S., says that having Keuka College students on the board is energizing.
“They help us collaborate, be more visible in the community, and provide us with volunteers,” says Nicole. “Volunteering here helps them learn to work with students with disabilities in an environment that offers a great support system.”
During the retreat, the students helped plan such family-centered activities as wagon rides, a flash mob, and creating stress balls. In addition, several sessions were offered to those with developmental disabilities, including visiting several different booths designed to improve such things as their motor skills, teamwork, and communication and socialization skills. Several activities were also planned for parents, including a presentation on the importance of sibling support, where they heard from Dr. Nicholas Koberstein, instructor of child and family studies.
“I really like being a volunteer at Wellness G.I.F.T.S., and because of this, I changed my major from criminal justice to educational studies,” says Bobby. “I really enjoy working with kids best, and I love what Wellness G.I.F.TS. is about and everyone has so much love for each other. And it’s what keeps me coming back to not only volunteer, but serve on the board as well. I like seeing the smiles on the families’ faces, and seeing how big a difference one weekend, one day, can make in their lives.”
Taylor completed a Field Period™ at Wellness G.I.F.T.S., and she liked the idea of learning while having fun.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if working with people with disabilities was what I wanted to do for a career, but after I completed my Field Period™ here, I solidified my career choice,” says Taylor. “When I was asked to serve on the board, I jumped at the chance.”
“I love what we do at Wellness G.I.F.T.S., and that the focus is on the whole family,” she says. “We allow families to just relax, enjoy being together, and have fun. I like seeing how the kids change from year to year. The parents are relaxed, and this helps make the kids with disabilities feel like the cool kids.”
Dr. Koberstein adds that it always a good opportunity for students to extend their learning out of the classroom and interface with the public.
“This event showcased how our child and family studies and psychology students, members of the BSA, are capable of taking theories, research, and practice out of the classroom, and apply this knowledge to benefit the public,” he says. “I believe the most important aspect of the Wellness G.I.F.T.S. event was the feedback the Keuka College students received from the participants and their families.”
Bobby and Haylee Bush, a child and family studies major and member of the BSA, also believe that volunteering at Wellness G.I.F.T.S. has enhanced the knowledge gained in the classroom.
Booby found that he “had a broader knowledge base going into my classes as to what to expect when working with kids with disabilities,” while Haylee says her experience at Wellness G.I.F.T.S. “applies to everything I’ve learned in classes, particularly systems theory, as that class focuses on the entire family system.”
“I like working with families,” Haylee adds, “because working with the whole family what I want to do in my career,” says Haylee. “So coming here seemed to make sense, because Wellness G.I.F.T.S. is all about the whole family having fun together.”
Dr. Koberstein echoes Haylee.
“I hope that families will use the programs at Wellness G.I.F.T.S. as a result of this event, and know that there are people on their side,” Dr. Koberstein says. “To my students, who worked so hard, my hope is that they understand their true capabilities. Planning this event was not easy, nor something that could be thrown together in a day, and had all of the trials and tribulations of group work. Each one of these students came away with a better understanding of how to work with children and adults with special needs.”
Wellness G.I.F.T.S. offers camping retreats to families who have a family member with developmental disabilities living at home with their parents or caregivers. Hosted by Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort, Wellness G.I.F.T.S. offers all family members much needed respite care while participating in educational, recreational, therapeutic activities, and networking opportunities.