TUSTIN, Calif. – Right now, the horizon is filled with the unknown, but YMCA of Orange County New Horizons Program Director, Lan Le is doing her best to bring some predictability to her friends.
Her friends are longtime members of the program, adults with developmental disabilities and special needs, who she used to see in-person almost every day. But since April Le has been keeping them all connected via Zoom.
“It’s very important for our participants to still have their normal schedule. Everything has come to a halt for them. They’re mainly at home, they’re isolated, they have nothing to do, and we wanted to bring the familiarity of still interacting with their friends,” Le said.
From bingo to virtual scavenger hunts, to Family Feud, Lan and the Y have helped maintain this program, which has kept some of its members interacting with their peers for 10 years, helping to ensure they feel welcome and safe.
Ted is one of those longtime members who struggled to maintain a sense of normalcy when the pandemic isolated him from the outside world he loves so much.
His caregiver, Noreen Creamer says that when Ted could no longer participate in New Horizons activities like going to Disneyland or the movies or dinner and bowling with his friends, he lost his anchor.
“He sits down at the computer, he sees his friends. He realizes that he’s not in his apartment, the whole world isn’t doing something and he’s stuck in his apartment. It’s really been a wonderful alternative to COVID,” Creamer says.
More than six million Americans have been diagnosed as having an intellectual disability. Social distancing can eliminate the daily assistance they rely on - from basic care to critical mental support.
Keeping the program going, even if it’s virtual, means that even though members might be isolated, they know they’re not alone.
“You want something, a little bit of sunshine every day and that’s really all he needs, a little bit of sunshine every day. Something to look forward to every day,” Creamer says.
And even though Le is keeping everyone together, she can’t wait to get back to actually being together.
“I miss them. I miss seeing them here in person. I miss giving them hugs. I miss asking them about their day. I love that when they walk in through that door all you see is smiles,” Le said.