Seattle Parks expands programs for special populations with 2015 Park District funding

Though 2015 is considered a ramp-up year for the Park District, (2016 being the first year that the District collects property taxes) Seattle Parks and Recreation has already implemented two new exciting community programs.

Using ramp-year funding, Seattle Parks was able to hire a half-time Recreation Specialist to officially launch its dementia-friendly programming citywide. Cayce Cheairs started with Seattle Parks in January and has since led excursions and classes for seniors all over the city.

A full-time Recreation leader for dementia-friendly programming was hired using 2015 Park District ramp-up funds.

Seattle Parks launched dementia-friendly programming in 2015 with the support of Park District funds.

“I am excited that our city is undergoing a transformation to become a dementia-friendly and inclusive community and I’m thrilled that our city government is onboard.” Cheairs said. “Our Parks and Recreation department is unique in the nation with the launch of dementia-friendly recreation, and we already are serving as a model to other cities. I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with and collaborate with inspiring and fearless community members and mutually-supportive and creative community organizations. I’m especially excited for opportunities to connect with and learn from our community members living with memory loss.”

So far this year, dementia-friendly recreation participants have had the opportunity to participate in Arts in the Park watercolor painting at Golden Gardens, guided fitness walks and an annual talent show among other things. Cheairs said her goal for the remainder of the year is to connect with Seattle senior centers, develop partnerships and spread the word about these programs in Seattle’s communities.

“In order to best serve ‘all citizens’ as our Parks and Recreation mission proposes, we are adjusting and expanding our programs so that all community members indeed have ‘safe and welcoming opportunities to play, learn, contemplate, and build community,’ including members living with memory loss,” Cheairs said. “This, we believe, enriches the whole community.”

Specialized Programs added an extra week of 2015 summer camp using Park District ramp up funds.

Specialized Programs added an extra week of summer camp using 2015 Park District ramp-up funds.

In addition to dementia-friendly recreation, Seattle Parks and Recreation is able to add an additional week of youth overnight summer camp this year for its Specialized Programs unit, which serves youth with disabilities. The extra week of camp will allow the department to serve 60 more campers.

In 2013, one of the most popular comments on a departmental community survey was a request for more camp opportunities. Parents told Specialized Programs leaders that they are grateful to have more opportunities for their children.

“Camp is a magical place for the campers because it allows them to have the same summer experience as their peers,” Recreation Leader Kyle Bywater said. “It is a place where parents feel safe to send their children because staff are fully trained. Campers get to make new friends, sing songs, play games, do crafts and enjoy entertainment every day. Camp is also special for parents as it gives them some respite. Some parents have never left their children with anyone overnight, so it gives them nights to relax as well.”

For more information on the Park District, please visit http://www.seattle.gov/seattle-park-district.