Guest Column: The Arc of Freeborn County is a grassroots organization

Published 12:16 am Saturday, August 26, 2017

Live United by Jessica Walters

Did you know that The Arc of Freeborn County has been serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) for 63 years?  Hi, my name is Jessica Walters and I am the new program director for The Arc of Freeborn County. I have been working with individuals with I/DD since I was 16 years old. I’m eager to continue the programming that has already been established, but excited to add new programs for our participants. For anyone who doesn’t know, The Arc is a nonprofit organization that provides advocacy, support for individuals and families with I/DD and programming including socialization. A grassroots organization, it was founded by parents and individuals who had the same dreams for their children with special needs as all parents do for their children: the ability to love and beloved, good health, a good self-image, a safe world in which to live, a good education, friends, independence and ultimately their own place in the world.

Jessica Walters

To this day, we stay true to our grassroots as we continue to grow. At The Arc of Freeborn County we offer a wide variety of direct service programs for all age groups. Included in our programming is Special Olympic sports/unified partners. At the age of 8 years old, you are able to participate in Special Olympics and something wonderful to the sports is you can become a unified partner. A unified partner allows athletes and partners to experience meaningful inclusion, build an inclusive environment in their school, community and team, while build new friendships. We offer bocce, bowling, track and field and new this year, SOfit.

The SOfit program is an eight-week unified approach to wellness, which pairs athletes with a unified partner, with the primary goal of the program being to “guide, educate and encourage athletes and partners to maintain a healthy lifestyle through increased physical activity and improved daily nutrition.” We also offer other programming including; dances, life learning classes, creative arts, Aktion Club and more. For our younger participants we offer an after school program and summer program full of fun and educational activities, including a 4-H program.

The Arc does a lot of advocacy work, some of our participants are unable to have a voice for themselves, and it is our job to ensure that we are standing up for their rights and well-being. Through our office, we inform our community about topics that may have an effect on our participants and their lives. It is our duty to keep everyone informed and educated on life changing topics. Despite having “Freeborn County” in our name, we do not receive any government funding. We are locally funded through the United Way, donations, fundraisers, memberships, activity fees and a few grants. Through these opportunities we are able to continue to offer programming, classes, socialization and so much more. Our ultimate goal is that individuals of all abilities are valued, accepted and included as full participating members of the community. Remember there is always more that we can do and we should do. Please join us in continuing this legacy and volunteer with us. We thank you all for your continued support of The Arc of Freeborn County.

Jessica Walters is the director of programs at The Arc of Freeborn County.