For Renata Rafiel of Boutte, there was just no doubt about what Arc of St. Charles’ summer camp meant to her daughter.
“Jade is a loving and outgoing 15-year-old with an intellectual disability,” said Rafiel. “She absolutely enjoyed attending camp and looked forward to it every day. It has improved her social skills in many ways. As a mother, it was a blessing to both her and I.”
The United Way of St. Charles funded the camp, which Arc Executive Director Victoria Bryant called an example of a successful, genuine partnership.
“Over the past 25 years, the Arc of St. Charles and the United Way of St. Charles have established meaningful services that enhanced the lives of our elderly loved ones and young adults with a disability.” Bryant said. “Recently, the United Way partnered with us to provide summer camp opportunities for local teenagers with disabilities.”
Most services today are funded through Medicaid, but Bryant said there are lingering concerns about continued funding with this program.
“We continue to seek United Way funds to offer assistance to those who would otherwise be without services and/or supports,” she said. “We are truly proud to be a partner of The United Way as it recognizes the many challenges faced by the Arc as well as celebrating the progression of services offered to participants. We too recognize their value in being an active participant in the growth and success of this community and its constituents.”
Arc has been a pioneer in this community for people with a disability with regards to aiding in achieving the American dream, Bryant said.
“Our mission is plain and simple, connecting people to their community and accessing resources within the community,” she added. “Our purpose is to facilitate and support all people with disabilities and special needs with access to resources, personalized encounters with decision makers, establishing programs that are truly reflective of integration, and developing meaningful partnerships for the people we serve as well as for the entire community.”
Bryant said the Arc movement began years ago before any other established organizations identified that a need was there. The movement pushed forward with momentum to secure true equality and meaningful opportunities for people with disabilities.
Arc has impacted the lives of many individuals with a disability and their families, she said.
“We are a resource, a liaison to other resources, an advocate, a stepping stone to independence, and a community partner with many organizations and resources,” Bryant said. “We are also a support group for families as well as a listening ear for those who may become overwhelmed with the daily challenges they are facing.
“Also, as education of society, as well as family increases, the need of more services and supports that connect people to their existing community will also change.”