A UCSB recreation program that serves children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities received a $75,000 donation from the Santa Barbara-based Bialis Family Foundation last week.
The UCSB Adapted Recreation Program, directed by Rick Van Hoorn, offers year-round sports and recreational activities that tailor to the needs of disabled participants. The adapted activities include wheelchair basketball, swim lessons, hand cycling, wheelchair dancing, snow- and water-skiing, a ropes course and self-defense. Van Hoorn said the program, which is less than one year old, will use the money to expand the recreational opportunities the program currently offers.
“The sky is the limit,” Van Hoorn said. “I just need to find someone to lead the activity, and I’ll do all I can to coordinate it.”
This is the second consecutive year that the Bialis Foundation has donated $75,000 to the program, bringing the foundation’s total contribution to $150,000, Van Hoorn said.
“Our program just wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for that grant,” Van Hoorn said.
The Bialis Family Foundation, begun by Gary Bialis in 1984, provides funding for programs used by the disabled in Santa Barbara and surrounding counties. The recent Bialis donations have come from the foundations’ Clara Project, which Bialis said he created in 2003 in memory of his aunt, who was born with cerebral palsy. After her death in 1970, Bialis said he was inspired to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.
“I saw there was a lack of programs for the disabled during her lifetime,” Bialis said. “I developed a goal to provide funding to allow the disabled to participate in a variety of programs such as those available to the able-bodied.”
Bialis said the foundation decided UCSB was the best school to utilize the group’s funds.
“After looking all over the county for individuals to run this adaptive program, we decided that UCSB, with its great staff and facilities, was the best place to start,” Bialis said.
Van Hoorn said all Adaptive Recreation Program activities are open to students, faculty, staff and Santa Barbara community members, as well as those who reside in surrounding areas. Participants range in age from 6 to 60 years old and come from all over the area, including San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
The program also provides indoor recreational activities such as trips to art museums, musical performances and the Channel Islands.
Van Hoorn said dozens of organizations have volunteered to help with the program’s activities in the last year, including the Santa Barbara city and county fire departments, city lifeguards, UCSB faculty, various on-campus clubs and athletic teams.
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone in the community,” Van Hoorn said. “It’s a good place for folks to give a little and to give back to the community.”
Van Hoorn said that approximately 300 people participated in the program last year and 500 are expected to participate this year.
“We are growing all the time, and we are offering more and more programs,” Van Hoorn said.
The program will hold a friends-and-family camp March 5-6 to involve the disabled in recreational activities with their friends and families.
“Intrinsically, it makes me feel great inside to know that I’m part of this program that gives an opportunity for people to smile and have fun,” Van Hoorn said. “It makes me smile every day.”