WesCare Professional Services
10-A Oak Branch Drive
Greensboro, NC 27407-2995
(336) 272-8335

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Community Spotlight: Raina Gardner of Air Fun Trampoline Park in Greensboro

logoAs the new general manager of Air Fun Trampoline Park, Raina Gardner has transformed the once struggling facility into an affordable child-centered, family-friendly atmosphere, making numerous adjustments to the business, particularly those that positively impact children with special needs.

Since her arrival in March, Raina has initiated extensive facility repairs including the improvement of ramps leading to the trampoline area, allowing individuals in wheelchairs the ability to safely get onto the flat, bouncy surface with ease.

Additionally, she changed the music, improved maintenance, and held a great deal of staff development and training, improving the safety of the space and how the staff acts and interacts with patrons.

“We’re very flexible and cater to different groups and the group’s needs,” says Raina. “We have great [staff members] here who are very engaging with whatever clientele we have. They’re really great at being versatile and interacting with the children and making sure they have an awesome time when they’re here.”

Raina took on the task of transforming Air Fun following more than 15 years serving as an operations and general manager in the healthcare industry, including time with a mental health agency. After her last place of employment shut down and the opportunity to lead Air Fun presented itself, Raina jumped at the chance.

She found taking on the challenge would allow her to combine her love for children with her skill set of running and maintaining businesses. She’d also be able to create an inclusive, welcoming place that would accommodate her friends from the mental health communities she remained in touch with.

“If that’s what I can provide then that’s what I can provide. It gives them a place to go where they’re not so confined by transportation issues and money issues. All of those things really debilitate what they can do in the community,” says Raina.

As part of her mission to renew the company and create a safe, energetic, and inclusive environment for children and families, Raina has actively partnered with various community stakeholders, including the police and fire departments, pediatricians, and local school systems. She also recently linked with WesCare Professional Services in conjunction with Mental Health Support Services and Special Hoops.

In July, Air Fun will serve as the location for the first ever First Fridays event, which takes place the “First Friday” of every month. During this occasion, children with intellectual and developmental disabilities will gather with members of AAU basketball team, the Greensboro Warriors, for a few hours of fun, engaging activities. It’s an extension of the annual Special Hoops 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament following a request from parents, caregivers and participants to hold similar experiences throughout the year.

Raina supports the mission of Special Hoops and the First Fridays event, to change how the broader community views and treats children with disabilities and create safe, inclusive spaces where they can get exercise, make friends, and have a good time.

“The lack of knowledge of individuals with disabilities is tremendous. They’re made fun of, they’re bullied, and this is one angle to me that [Special Hoops and First Fridays] tries to eliminate,” says Raina. “It’s not only educating people about disabilities but…getting [those with disabilities] comfortable in their own skin.”

Additional attractions at Air Fun include Neon Night on Friday nights after 6 p.m. where the trampoline area gets dark and disco balls and laser lights illuminate the space. Other activities include paintless paintball, archery tag, and an obstacle course.

Raina wants to get the message out that Air Fun Trampoline Park is a fun, safe place available “to people who traditionally wouldn’t have the opportunity to come here.” It’s a space open for all.

For more information about Air Fun Trampoline Park, visit the website

WesCare Partners With New Nonprofit Offering Support to Parents and Teachers of Students With Special Needs

Jana and Tassia CarterWesCare Professional Services, in conjunction with Mental Health Support Services of NC, recently 
established partnership with a budding disability advocacy organization working to fill a void within the local mental health community.

PTS Support for Exceptional Children guides parents and teachers of children with special needs and the children themselves through the mental health system, an often difficult journey navigated alone.

Twin sisters Jana and Tassia Carter formerly launched PTS Support for Exceptional Children as a nonprofit in May. They each have sons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

After realizing there was a need for a support group, the pair decided to gather and share all they’ve learned throughout the past eight years advocating for their children.

They also combined their experiences from their respective careers to form the organization. Jana has a background in business previously serving 12 years in corporate America. Today she owns an auto loan company.

Tassia has a background in early childhood education, previously owning her own child care program, opening a school as an administrator and lead teacher, and currently working with WesCare to open the after-school program at Spero Developmental Daycare Services this summer. She will return to school in the fall taking special education courses. She currently provides home care for her eight-year-old son, Jonas Oliver, who has mild intellectual disability, scoliosis, and is nonverbal.

WesCare provides services for Jana’s seven-year-old son, Nijay, who has autism and sensory processing disorder. While working together, Jana found WesCare’s level of professionalism and devotion, to not only her son but all consumers and their families, impressive and admirable.

“There aren’t many places out there that really do what they say they do and they do it with passion,” says Jana.

The feeling was mutual. Jana and Tassia began holding support groups at WesCare and a partnership emerged.

“They truly have a passion for this field and we are very proud to be partnered with them,” says Eric Page, WesCare Operations Manager.

PTS of PTS Support for Exceptional Children stands for parents, teachers, and students. The organization hosts three meetings a week, every other week, addressing the needs of each group per session.

“Every component matters in the success of the students,” says Jana.

Meetings include dinner, networking opportunities, and discussions centered around topics of interest, such as sensory processing disorder, autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, diet, potty training, managing emotions, stress, and more.

Participants have opportunities to ask questions and express their challenges to others who can relate. They receive feedback, educational materials, and a list of resources. They leave feeling validated, heard, and with tools to help as they move forward.

“[They] come out and express themselves in a judgement-free zone,” says Tassia.

Specifically during group sessions with teachers, guest experts such as special education teachers and occupational therapists lead discussions on how to best modify their classrooms to meet the needs of their students with disabilities while also meeting the needs of students without disabilities.

“Our ultimate goal is to make sure [participants] are feeling very empowered, very encouraged,” says Jana.

Additionally, PTS Support for Exceptional Children hopes to offer support group sessions in different settings, provide workshops and seminars, host art programs, provide babysitting, and link participants with various networks that can further address their concerns.

With an understanding that students may receive a message of empowerment more effectively from other students instead of adults, youth members of PTS Support for Exceptional Children plan to participate in two existing summer camps this season leading group support sessions for children.

The nonprofit also has plans for a big community day and photo shoot in July.

Jana and Tassia are thrilled they can be of assistance to the community. Yet, while their organization helps others, they are receiving the same in return.

Just hearing how much they’re already impacting so many lives, “It’s such a blessing,” says Tassia.

The next PTS Support Exceptional Children parent meetings will be held July 10th and 24th at 6:30 p.m. at the WesCare office. They will hold four student meetings every Monday starting July 3 at Hope Academy. If you know of someone with a child with disabilities who you think might benefit, please share.

5 Ways to Observe Mental Health Awareness Month

mentalhealthawarenessmonthMay is Mental Health Awareness Month, an observance established in 1949 to end the stigma associated with mental illness, to provide support for those with a condition, to educate the broader community on what mental illness is or is not, and to share ways to have and maintain mental wellness.

With this year’s theme of Risky Business, organizers of Mental Health Awareness Month, Mental Health America, want to show how certain behaviors can cause mental health issues to form, worsen, or possibly serve as signs that a mental health condition is present.

As mental health professionals, here are several ways to continue shining a light on mental health throughout this dedicated time of recognition.

  1. Tell friends and family that it’s Mental Health Awareness Month and start a dialogue about why such a month is needed.
  2. Share on your social media accounts the various graphics that organizations advocating for mental health awareness have created and are sharing for this month. Many list facts and figures about mental health that highlight the challenges individuals with mental health illnesses face, or counteract stereotypes or false beliefs about mental illness.
  3. Practice self-care in some way every day to maintain your own mental wellness.
  4. Participate in a mental health awareness-related event in your area, like the mental health resource fair to be held in Greensboro, May 13; or the 2nd Annual Special Hoops 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament on May 6 where you can serve as a volunteer.
  5. Listen to mental health-related news and podcasts to stay informed of what’s happening in the industry and how it’s impacting those with mental health challenges.

Earth Day Fun to Reduce Stress and Boost Joy

earthdaySpending time outdoors in nature provides numerous benefits for children and adults with special needs, from relieving stress and anxiety to gaining and enhancing life skills, such as interacting positively with others (experienced when working as a team to build a garden for instance), and adapting to changes (experienced when the weather shifts, water evaporates, or plants grow).

An opportunity to get out and explore nature presents itself this month of April with the celebration of Earth Day. There are various ways to help your consumers engage in meaningful work this time of year while learning more about the environment and how to take care of it.

Try engaging  with your consumers in one or more of the suggested activities below.

  1. Make a solar oven. Teach consumers about solar energy by cooking s’mores outside under the sun. See a lesson plan, directions, and additional outdoor cooking projects here.
  2. Set up a recycling center. Go over what’s recyclable and what’s not by visiting your city’s website and reading recycling-related books and videos. Start small with solely 3 containers; one for paper, plastic, and glass, respectively.
  3. Create a recycling craft. Gather recyclable materials. Invite consumers to create a work of art or other new creation using the reusable items. Set up the activity outdoors.
  4. Nurture nature. Go to a nursery or home improvement store and allow each consumer to pick out at least one plant. Transplant the plants into pots or gardening beds back at the group home or center and allow consumers to care for them.  Provide assistance where needed.
  5. Attend an Earth Day event. Earth Day festivals provide numerous nature-engaging activities in one location, along with food, music, and giveaways. Attend one like the Piedmont Earth Day Fair in Winston-Salem on the 22nd or the 2017 Earth Day event in Kernersville on the 20th.

Fun Activities to Help Consumers Enjoy Spring

Fun Activities to Help Consumers Enjoy SpringAlthough it seemed to appear a little earlier than expected this year, it’s now coming close to the official start of spring. Below are a few ideas for activities to engage in with your consumers to learn more about and to enjoy the new season. Where possible, include them in the process of planning your spring events.

Read Books About Spring, Plants, and Gardening

Visit your local library and check out books that discuss the season and gardening. Include a mix of fiction and nonfiction titles. Some great ones include Mama MitiLola Plants a GardenA-Z Encyclopedia of Garden PlantsHow Do Worms Work, and Starting Seeds: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardening.

Attend Library Workshops

In addition to carrying many books about the season and nature, local libraries also offer multiple free gardening classes and workshops. Check out the Guilford County library system calendar for upcoming dates.

Have a Seed-Starting Party

After learning about the plant cycle, host a seed-starting party.

There are many ready-made seed-starting kits available around this time of year at well-known big box stores. Purchase the kits and follow the directions for an easy and fun activity.

Another option: Purchase the necessary materials from stores such as the Dollar Tree and Target and start the seeds from scratch. Gather vegetable, herb, and fruit seed packets, small pots, gardening tools, soil and water.

Together they can make up your container garden. Tend to the garden and harvest, cook, and eat the plants together throughout the growing season.

Plant Flowers

Visit a greenhouse or nursery and purchase colorful plants. Together, plant them around the group home in containers and/or in the ground, depending on your space and goals.

Visit a Garden

There are various public spaces throughout the Triad and surrounding areas that highlight the beauty of nature.

For instance, the Greensboro Arboretum in Greensboro hosts a variety of plants that can be observed while walking on designated paths.

There’s also Keeley Gardens in McCleansville, that houses a group of community garden plots. Special outings, including tours and parties for your consumers, can be arranged at these and other locations.

Happy Spring!

WesCare and Mental Health Support Services of NC to Open Daycare for Toddlers With Special Needs

Spero LogoOnce again, we’re expanding our WesCare family by establishing a new program! This summer, we’re opening a daycare center for toddlers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, providing a fun, safe, supportive, and inclusive environment where they can happily learn and grow.

From this location, housed next door attached to the WesCare main office, we’ll also offer an after-school program and summer day camp for the children. Staff will consist of some current WesCare employees and new hires.

The name of the center, Spero Developmental Daycare Services, stems from the word Spero, Latin for “Hope” or “I Hope.”

The concept of this new facility centers on inclusivity. Although Spero is designed to cater to the needs of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, children without disabilities are also welcome and encouraged to attend.

We hope through this experience, the children learn that they belong; that they are capable of gaining new skills; and how to treat everyone with kindness and respect, no matter their abilities.

Prior to attending Spero, children will receive a unique assessment to determine their needs and if the program will be a good fit. Teachers will teach using a unique in-house curriculum and will create learning goals for each child.

Spero Development Daycare Center is a joint venture with Mental Health Support Services of North Carolina.