Center brings joy to disabled

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Kendra Benedict, new director of program services at The Centers for Habilitation in Tempe, said members participate in a number of recreational activities designed to help integrate them into the wider community with volunteer stints and outings such as trips to the mall. (Wrangler News photo by Alex J. Walker)

When Jenny Hardaway graduated from Corona, her parents wondered what the future would hold for her.

Born premature, Jenny is wheelchair-bound and non-verbal. She has cerebral palsy and dystonia, a neurological movement disorder, as well as an intellectual disability.

David Hardaway, her father, said another parent at Corona told him about The Centers for Habilitation, a Tempe non-profit that serves disabled adults like Jenny.

“When Jenny graduated from high school, my wife and I went to do a tour of TCH and we were impressed,” David said.

“The biggest advantage for Jenny is the social aspect of being there. She loves being around other people.”

With trips to the bowling alley, the movie theater and the mall, it’s a stimulating atmosphere where Jenny and other members enjoy time with their peers. Just like when she was at Corona, David drops Jenny off in the morning. She’s at the center five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“She’d go on the weekends if she could,” David chuckled. “She absolutely loves being there.”

Days are filled with activities such as crafts and games. “She really can’t do much for herself,” David said. “They take her hand and have her do things like draw pictures.”

It’s that one-on-one attention that Jenny receives that makes such a difference. Her aide, a woman named Mary, helps Jenny feed herself.

“When I drop her off in the morning, members of the staff are out there to greet her. It’s a good feeling,” David said.

Serving as chairman of the family support group at TCH, David and the group meet with staff to provide feedback and suggestions, but they’re also there as a resource to other parents and guardians.

“We get together and share about our loved ones and things we’ve learned as we advocate for them,” David said. “Quite frankly, we’re a shoulder people can cry on.”

The staff at TCH, he said, really understands what parents go through.

Kendra Benedict, newly hired director of program services at TCH, said the organization serves 110 adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities in Tempe. TCH also operates 13 local group homes.

“It’s post-high school to end of life,” Benedict said. “They have significant needs. What’s difficult is that when people age out of high school, there aren’t nearly as many services as there are K-12.”

tch-2Those who receive services at TCH are often a support to each other too, Benedict said. “To see our members interact with each other and support each other is phenomenal—it’s meaningful because they are peers.”

Recreational activities often echo what’s going on out in the community and the wider world. An upcoming mini-Special Olympics will feature wheelchair races and even a basketball shooting contest, for example.

“With our outings, we’re have them integrated into the community. They might go out to eat on a Friday night, just like you would,” Benedict said. And just because they have challenges, that doesn’t mean they can’t give back to the community, too.

“We try to seek volunteer opportunities for them that are available and we also have folks that come and volunteer with us,” Benedict said.

One of the biggest challenges that families face is that as members age, so do their parents. With the average age of TCH group residents hovering around 50, parents are often 80 and up.

“Who will take care of them? They have been their advocate their whole life. We try to work with parents on that. There are legal resources,” Benedict said. TCH is there to “advocate for the individual with disabilities so they can have the quality of life they deserve and make sure they enjoy every minute of it.”

Many of the members have been there for years and have fairly significant needs. Less than a quarter are verbal, Benedict said. TCH is only reimbursed for 70 percent of the cost of the services they provide. Like many non-profits, they rely on fundraisers to make up the difference.

The Monster Mash: Fairly Frightening Fairytales Oct. 15 is one such event. The evening includes dinner, drinks, live and silent auctions, dancing, a costume contest and raffle. All proceeds benefit programs for people with disabilities.

Information: tchmash.com

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