First published by Maria Spitale-Leisk / North Shore News, May 15, 2019
Riding the SeaBus as a teenager, seeing the streets of home fade from sight, is a rite of passage.
The North Shore’s beloved mode of transportation will be featured during a new Easter Seals Urban Activities Program, launching throughout the Lower Mainland this summer. These fun and educational day trips, offered in North Vancouver in mid-July, are designed for youth and young adults with diverse abilities between the ages of 13 and 29. The focus for these camps is on urban exploration, rather than the great outdoors. Activities include everything from bowling and sports days in the park, to scavenger hunts, fun with animals, and shopping trips.
Participants will learn how to use transit and make purchases at stores – all while developing friendships and strengthening their relationships and social skills. North Van-specific activities include Sports Day at Waterfront Park and a visit to Maplewood Farm to meet the resident animals. On bowling day, the youth will be taken on a SeaBus adventure to Commodore Lanes in Downtown Vancouver.
“We wanted a few days for the participants to experience using this form of transit,” explains Easter Seals B.C. and Yukon spokeswoman Jennifer Vasarhely. “While it’s important to have participants active on the North Shore, we also want to encourage a sense of exploration and help them build the skills and experiences that will allow them to expand their horizons and learn about the great things in and out of their home base.”
Program participants have a range of abilities including autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cognitive delays, anxiety, and some mobility limitations. “Each brings their own unique personality and set of incredible abilities though, and I cannot stress enough the need for people not to look at people with disabilities first and foremost for their disability, but for all the amazing qualities apart from that,” says Vasarhely.
The groups are split into youth ages 13-18 and young adults ages 19-29, or as close to that range as possible. “We want to be flexible so if someone wants to join but is maybe slightly older or younger than this, we can look at that one on a case-by-case basis,” adds Vasarhely.
There are six spots available per day. Participants will be able to choose from a list of dates and activities so that their schedule can be tailored to what they enjoy best. “We wanted to keep the groups small enough to be able to focus on every participant and really make it an intimate experience they will get the most from,” explains Vasarhely. The program is run by a team of at least three staff, all of whom have backgrounds in working with youth with diverse abilities. Volunteers are also on hand to support the youth and encourage them.
Since 1952, Easter Seals B.C. and Yukon has offered programs and services to individuals with disabilities to help build their self-esteem, self-confidence and sense of independence. In 2018, Easter Seals celebrated the 50th anniversary of their summer camp program.
Lonsdale Quay Market is the meeting place for the North Van day programs, running July 15 to 19. The cost is $50 per participant per day, which includes activity costs and transportation during daytime outings. Participants must bring their own lunch.
To apply, visit the Easter Seals website, complete the registration forms, and then send them in by email or by regular mail to their Vancouver office.
This story originally appeared in the North Shore News Summer Camps special section, which highlights local summer camps for kids.