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Featured Foundation

​Featured Foundation: Bothin Foundation

As part of our mission to help individuals with disabilities achieve greater self-sufficiency and lead richer lives, leaders at Via West and Altitude consistently incorporate fitness and healthy living activities into every session. New research reports that 39% of women and 28% of men with Down syndrome are obese, and that most causes of this obesity are related to lifestyle options. Adults with any disability are 53% more likely to be obese than their non-disabled peers and nearly 1/3 of adults with cognitive limitations are obese. The prevalence of obesity in children with autism and other developmental disabilities is 30% or greater.

Affecting change in people with autism, Down syndrome and other developmental issues is complicated by characteristics inherent in their disability. “The Groove”, a tendency of individuals with Down syndrome to continue firmly-entrenched patterns of behavior and activity to the exclusion of other options, is often misinterpreted as “stubbornness”, but experts validate its importance in their daily lives. Autism Speaks acknowledges “apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals”.

We are so excited about a new partnership with the Bothin Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization that has joined us to renovate the well-loved Letterman Gym at Via West Campus. Stocked with both child- and adult-sized cardio, strengthening and flexibility equipment, the gym has served as a learning environment for indoor fitness activities for many years. Because it is used year-round by exuberant individuals, some of the equipment has deteriorated.

A generous $19,570 grant from the Bothin Foundation has allowed us to replace some of that basic equipment (designed for home use) with durable commercial products including a child-sized and an adult-sized treadmill, step platforms for small group aerobics activities, and a sound system to pump up the energy level. We were also able to replace cracked linoleum with thick safety mats and improve the electrical circuits.

With this renovation in place, more than 2,000 children, teens and adults with disabilities annually will have the opportunity to actively engage in structured fitness activities in the renovated gym. Because they are learning in the safe, familiar environment of Via West, we expect to see less resistance in the form of “The Groove” or inflexible patterns of behavior. They’ll learn safe and appropriate use of exercise equipment, develop a sense of comfort and confidence on the equipment, and master fitness routines that can be carried over to home, school, adult day programs and community settings (including YMCAs and commercial gyms.)

Featured Foundation

​Featured Foundation: Giants Community Fund

As an organization promoting personal growth and self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities, Via is committed to enhancing the personal safety of the children, teens and adults we serve and helping them avoid abusive situations. Unfortunately, studies have shown that youngsters with disabilities are subject to 3-4 times more abuse than their typically-developing peers, with some experts reporting a 70% incidence of abuse. Peer bullying represents a particularly troublesome component of that abuse.

Thanks to an exciting new partnership with the San Francisco Giants Community Fund, participants at Via West and Altitude are now enjoying developmentally-appropriate anti-bullying activities on campus and during community integration outings as part of a new Stand Up to Bullying! year-round program. Awarded in September as part of Strike Out Violence Day at AT&T Park, the $7,000 grant has allowed us to create a Giants-branded anti-bullying coloring book, develop posters to use during campfires, put on anti-bullying skits, and engage participants in making puppets to role play real-life situations that put them at risk for bullying. Everything learned on campus is reinforced during outings to inclusive venues such as Spina Farms and The Old Spaghetti Factory.

We’re already seeing great results, with participants sharing stories of bullying and demonstrating more effective ways to counteract bullying behaviors. Some parents have shared that their sons and daughters are bringing home the coloring books and talking about how they can use the information.

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