For many adults living with developmental and physical disabilities, the opportunity to socialize and gain a sense of belonging is so critical to their well being.
While many recreational and social opportunities for disabled individuals disappear as they reach adulthood, South Brunswick continues to provide an outlet through the township's Pioneer Recreation Club. The club is open to South Brunswick residents age 21 to 55 with developmental and physical disabilities, and seeks to provide a social and support network, as well as an avenue to create friendships.
"What's wonderful is that I've been doing this for seven years, and during that time our members have become really close to others in the group," said Program Coordinator Nancy Messina. "If they see one another at Stop&Shop or something, they'll stop and talk to them, so it really extends their social capabilities because we're all about fun."
The club meets about once a month with special activities and programs, including games and dances. Recently, the Pioneer Club began a new partnership with the New York Sports Club on Route 1 in Monmouth Junction to provide an expanded fitness component.
The program brings members of the Pioneer Club to the gym to participate in a Spin class, with volunteers from the NYSC who buddy up with the disabled adults to help them through the class.
"I was taking the Spin class at the club and I thought the instructor was outrageous and our members would just adore him. I thought it would be a perfect match," Messina said. "New York Sports Club really welcomed our program with open arms."
The Spin class is ideal for the Pioneer Club members, because the workout on stationary bikes allows them to go at their own pace and comfort level.
"Our population sometimes has problems with balance, plus just getting to belong to a social group is really important to them," Messina said. "In this class they get to sit there and ride the bikes to their own ability, and they get to feel like they belong because they're cycling with the other members of our program."
Just over 10 of the Pioneer Club's 45 members participate in the Spin class. Messina hopes that number grows as the social and fitness benefits of the class begin to pay off.
"Some of our participants live at the (Citizens for Independent Living housing development), which is kind of like a dorm, so they have a built in social network," Messina said. "But our other participants live at home and they don't have the same social opportunities. The exercise is just a plus, because this class gives them nice social opportunities with their peers. I called one participant to remind them of the class, and his mom said 'don't worry my son has been dressed and ready for the class since 8 a.m. with a water bottle in his hand.'
"They don't get this opportunity often and they're just so excited about the program."
The Pioneer Recreation Club is looking for new participants and volunteers to join the program. Most activities are free or very rarely involve a small fee for participation. Activities include bowling, dances, movies, games and much more. The program accepts volunteers as young as 12-years-old to be a buddy for adults with special needs.
"Our participants just want to be like typical adults and be able to have long lasting friendships like anyone else," Messina said. "That's why we all get together. Spin class is something they might have never gotten the opportunity to do unless someone took them under their wing. We want them to have fun, get exercise and learn new skills. Hopefully this is something they will continue at home with typical bike riding."
For more information on the Pioneer Recreation Club call 732-329-4000 ext. 7671.
Also, visit the township web site for more information on volunteering or joining the Pioneer Recreation Club. Click the Recreation tab, then click Programs and Activities.
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