Just a little over a year ago, we settled into our new home at 25 Industrial Park Road. While we witnessed continuous improvements that enhanced the overall quality inside our building, it wasn’t until this spring we started to see some exciting new features happening outside. Now, as the height of summer approaches, we’re ready to enjoy an array of new opportunities, including a picnic patio, recreational field space and walking path, a basketball/pickleball court, raised garden beds, and a community memorial called the Remembrance Terrace. Although our primary focus is to resume and maintain community-based activities, COVID-19 has shown us the importance of having onsite resources and quality activities.
There are probably many of you that agree when we say lunch breaks are the highlight of our day. We get to mingle with our co-workers and friends and enjoy the downtime of catching up and sharing laughs. Well, that wasn’t so much the case since the pandemic. For everyone’s safety here at MARC, we had to assign seating and supply acrylic barriers in our cafeteria. We really missed our normal lunch breaks, but by the time spring rolled around, we got a chance to take our lunch outdoors, giving us some breathing room to mingle again. Yet, we still found it lacked that communal feeling we cherish since the picnic tables were spread out across the lawn. Now, with August here, we have a new picnic patio that will bring a whole new meaning to our lunch hour.
With an accessible ramp directly from the cafeteria, we are loving the grab-and-go ease of taking our lunch outdoors together. There’s plenty of space for everyone, especially with the addition of wheelchair-accessible café tables and chairs. The patio is also covered partially by a Shade Sail, blocking out up to 99% of harmful UV rays from the sun. It will allow us to enjoy one another’s company in the fresh air, even on those sunnier days when the sun is feeling strong. While the patio will primarily provide a safe, common area to gather and dine outside, it will also be a place where anyone can relax in respite. No matter how we enjoy it, we look forward to the many new memories we’ll make out there.
Just a stone’s throw away from the patio is our newly landscaped walking path and recreational field. Thanks to Landscape Architect Mike Rettenmeier and his careful attention to detail, he designed this combination as part of our desire to promote physical activity. Unlike heat-retaining black-tops, our new walking path consists of fine grey stone, making it accessible for wheelchairs while remaining at a cool temperature. It wraps around the field in a complete loop so anyone can walk while still being involved in the field activities, such as corn-hole, soccer, badminton, and more. Before this combo, we would go for walks around the building, only to turn around due to sections where the sidewalk ends or areas where the grass becomes too rugged from tree roots. With a safe and level path and field, we can enjoy our walks and other daily exercises together, struggle-free. At MARC, we believe that physical activity is essential to supporting our overall health and quality of life. Yet, according to The Arc, individuals with I/DD face many challenges regarding diet, weight, and being physically active. They mention that “[p]eople with I/DD also experience three times the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer as compared to the general population.” Thus, creating opportunities for recreational play is essential to their overall health and happiness. Although, we couldn’t let our options end at the field and walking path.
We are thrilled to offer an activity that is a favorite amongst so many here at MARC: basketball! Our old basketball hoop has followed us from our old building in Cromwell to here at 25 Industrial Park Road, but never before have we had our very own half-court! The surface is made with a soft-texture game tile, otherwise known as VersaCourt, which we especially like due to its comforting support to everyone’s joints during play. Another plus is that it holds up to rain without any puddling! Yet, the half-court doesn’t just accommodate basketball. It is outfitted with lines for Pickleball as well, making it a dual sport court. To prevent having to chase the ball into the woods, a common frustration, we decided to have a fence installed around the entire perimeter. As of now, the court is complete and welcoming players. We are so thankful for the quality and timely installation provided by Creative Landscape Design. Here’s to a future of many free throws, 3-pointers, and pickleball paddling!
On a more gentle note of physical activity, planting has begun in our new set of raised garden beds! Accompanying them is a charming pergola for needed shade. Gardening has long been a part of our programming and is highly desirable by many. It’s not uncommon that you will hear of gardening as a means of relieving stress and promoting self-confidence, two essential pieces to everyone’s mental well-being. If you have gardened before, you know firsthand how wonderful it is to watch your plants bloom and harvest the fruits of your labor. We believe that these new beds will nurture positive growth and connection to ourselves and each other. Although it may not seem like it, gardening helps increase physical activity and foster cognitive and motor skills, a common area of focus. It involves a variety of steps, all of which predominantly require the use of hands and fingers. Weeding, digging, picking, and pruning are just some of the tasks that come with gardening. These can help improve hand-eye coordination, joint flexibility, and grasping and holding objects. Another important aspect of gardening is fostering awareness of a clean and healthy diet, which falls perfectly with our cooking classes. Recipes can revolve around what is being grown in the garden and vice versa, encouraging a nutritious and hearty experience inside the kitchen and garden. The positive impacts of gardening are truly endless, making it a valuable addition to what we have to offer here at MARC.
Last but certainly not least is the Remembrance Terrace. As mentioned in our previous blog post, the Remembrance Terrace is our first community memorial where anyone can gather to remember and honor those who have enriched our lives. MARC is fortunate to have so many people who have made a positive impact on our community. The Remembrance Terrace is our way of honoring them every day. If you are interested in purchasing a brick, please head over to our page at www.marccommunityresources.org/remembrance-terrace.
We will forever treasure this opportunity and look forward to it being the center of our outdoor expansion project.
From outdoor respite spaces and memorials to physical and mental well-being activities like basketball and gardening, it’s no doubt we see tremendous growth happening. But it’s not the growth of our building we’re most excited about; it’s the growth we’ll witness in everyone here at MARC. We are genuinely grateful to Linda Iovanna and her support in getting us where we are today.
These projects were made possible due to this fiscal year’s surplus, approvals from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) of one-time DDS capital improvements, and numerous major gifts designated for our Remembrance Terrace.