Article and photos submitted by team lead Katy Everhart
CHEER is our monthly respite program for individuals with disabilities who are 18+ years old. While participants enjoy fun activities with peers, family members and primary caregivers are able to enjoy some time to themselves out in the community or relaxing at home. Earlier this month, we had 22 adults come for our Thanksgiving Feast CHEER event.
At our Thanksgiving Feast event, participants sat together family style around long tables and served mashed potatoes, chicken, green beans, macaroni and cheese and pumpkin pie. Without prompting, one participant encouraged everyone to state what he/she was thankful for. The group is close-knit and many have been a part of CHEER for years.
After enjoying our meal, we played a game of turkey toss by tossing newspaper balls into a paper bag turkey. Our craft for the evening was a pumpkin centerpiece made out of a roll of toilet paper and fabric. The participants enjoyed helping each other make and decorate their pumpkins. The night passed quickly and before we knew it, caregivers arrived signaling an end to our evening.
CHEER events are thoughtfully planned to ensure all members of the group are able to participate. As we spend many of our events in the community, that often means collaborating heavily with off-site locations to make sure we can make the evening as seamless as possible for our participants. We take into consideration any adaptations our consumers may need. Full participation means reducing accessibility barriers and making every event approachable.
We try especially hard to create events that foster friendships, belonging and fun. Many of our respite families and participants have become close friends over the years and spend time together outside of CHEER. The participants know who to expect each month and ask about each other if someone is absent. As our events are a respite time — a break for both the caregivers and the participants — the emphasis is not placed on learning, although that does happen naturally. An outstanding event is when everyone is engaged throughout the duration of the event.
CHEER is a valuable program to Easterseals Crossroads because it creates a safe environment for friendships; it provides relief for caregivers; and it allows people to participate in unique community events. Easterseals Crossroads provided 1,804 hours of respite care for families so that parents and caregivers could benefit from valuable time for themselves this past year.
-article contributed by Katy Everhart, Respite Team Lead