It is incredibly hard to believe that our 2014 summer program Camp REC is coming to an end. As I walk through the center, I am totally in awe of the smiling faces on both staff and children and the contagious giggles that abound. It is truly amazing to observe the wonderful resource the REC has become. It certainly makes me reflect back on when the idea of opening the REC was merely a thought to the actuality of opening day.
Frequently, I am asked why I opened the center. Although the development of the center from its infancy to now has been a tremendous adventure, how it came to fruition is actually not a spectacular story. I started working in special education over sixteen years ago. Throughout my career and wonderful interactions with so many children and their families, it became evident that the services I was providing for these children and their families were often not enough. Parents expressed their concerns and wishes for additional supportive programs. For many families, evenings are long, weekends are longer, and vacation weeks are endless. Simply an hour can feel like an eternity at times when a child is having a difficult day. Confronted with this realization, I envisioned offering a year-round program that would be available to families seven days per week. Families would have the opportunity to access the center at times convenient for them. What a wonderful resource it would be!
For a long period of time, I constantly thought about how to design and institute such a program. After endless hours of perseverating on the idea, I finally decided that I needed to simply take a chance and move forward with following my dream. My initial concept of implementing this program soon became a reality. Thanks to the many families who continue to take advantage of the activities and programs offered at the center, the REC quickly gained popularity. With its success, I have received more gratification than I could ever have imagined. The center today offers so much more than seven days per week of programming; it offers a truly specialized experience for all students. It has opened the doors for children with special needs to engage in similar experiences as their peers.
I am extremely proud to be surrounded by such talented and dedicated people who share my belief in the REC. My staff members possess endless amounts of energy. They spend countless hours researching and creating fun and educational new projects for our students. My team members and those families participating in our programs truly make the REC a unique and cherished place. They have been instrumental in making my dream come alive and the success of the REC has surpassed all my expectations.
I am truly touched and feel so fortunate that we have been able to reach so many families over the three years we have been open. My dream doesn’t stop here though; I am committed to extending these opportunities to more families as well! Although I have achieved my initial goal with the success of the REC, anyone who knows me well would agree that I am constantly striving to expand and provide more support and additional resources to families. Why stop here? The REC in Peabody officially opened while I was 8 months pregnant with my second son. It just seems fitting that our second center will open while I am 8 months pregnant with my third child. We are eager to launch our Londonderry, NH location in October 2014. We hope many new families will access and enjoy the programs offered at our new location and that we will receive as much enthusiasm from families in New Hampshire as we have received by those in Massachusetts.
I truly love the career path I have chosen and I am extremely thankful for the students, families and staff members of the REC who consistently impact my life and remain my constant motivation in continuing to explore and create new and even more beneficial resources for all families.
I hope you will come see us soon in either Peabody or Londonderry!
Tricia Woolard, M.S.Ed., BCBA
Recreational Education Center, LLC