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The Myra Reinhard Family Foundation

Over the past several years, leaders at Via West Campus (VWC), Via’s nationally-accredited special needs camp in Cupertino, have reached out to low-income communities across the Silicon Valley to help families with special needs youngsters connect with Via West and obtain funding for school year respite weekends and longer summer camps. In the process, we’ve identified common barriers: time constraints faced by parents who often juggle 2-3 jobs to support their families; limited transportation options; lack of familiarity with therapeutic recreation/respite options in general and Via West in particular; and, of course, financial constraints. Cultural and language differences can make families reluctant to register their children for an unknown program (particularly with overnight stays), and it’s difficult for parents to comprehend the depth of services at VWC without firsthand knowledge.

In December 2017, we received a generous $34,799 grant from The Myra Reinhard Family Foundation to underwrite a three-part outreach program for low-income families in the San Francisco Bay area over an 12 month period: 1) bilingual (Spanish & English) community outreach to families, service providers, parent groups, Regional Center service coordinators, teachers and day care staff to inform them of VWC services, 2) a bilingual Open House/Field Day at VWC for youth with disabilities and their family members (transportation provided), and 3) full and partial scholarships for respite weekends and summer camps for low-income youth.

On June 9, 2018, Via West Campus in Cupertino hosted an Open House/Field Day that provided 39 low-income youngsters with special needs, their siblings and their parents (a total of 139 people) with an opportunity to see camp in action and enjoy a delicious barbecue luncheon. Parents received individual assistance with funding options and applications for Foundation-funded scholarships while their sons and daughters made tie-dye shirts, created culinary masterpieces, tried out new crafts and enjoyed a customized coloring book made just for them!. Family members interacted with Via West leaders, behavioral specialists, culinary managers, and registered nurses, many of whom were bilingual in Spanish or Vietnamese. Current VWC participants and their parents shared stories of gains made during special needs camp sessions and encouraged new families to try out a camp session or two.

Youths with developmental and physical disabilities who attended the open house along with their siblings thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor setting, and took home their completed colorful shirts, cooking samples, recipes and goodie bags. Parents had the chance to view the value of therapeutic recreation both for their youngsters’ personal growth and development and for their own respite time. To view more photos from the day, please click here.

The Myra Reinhard Family Foundation funding, matched 1:1 by a challenge award from the Sobrato Family Foundation, will provide full or partial scholarships for 40 youngsters to attend the session of their choice at Via West over the next six months. Although 20+ families are currently completing the financial aid process for scholarship funding, there is still money available for other low-income residents of Silicon Valley who have children with developmental, physical or intellectual disabilities. Please contact Kathryn Gilbreth at 408-243-7861, ext. 218, for further information about program registration and/or scholarship funding.