VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A local mother reached out to to share the work the Virginia Beach Recreation Centers have done with her daughter, who has cerebral palsy.

As summer turns to fall, Sara Wiltshire hopes more families of children with disabilities will take advantage of the programs she says are some of the best around.

“It’s life-changing for us,” said Wiltshire.

When the pandemic hit, Wiltshire became concerned for her daughter, Olivia. The 19-year-old was participating in the Virginia Beach Recreation Centers’ Therapy Recreation programs. However, Wiltshire didn’t have to worry for long.

“Really in crunch time, we went from meeting in-person to instantly going online.”

“We came together and we were like, ‘We need to find a way to get our participants engaged and to stay connected with them so they don’t feel like they get lost in the mix of all of this,'” said Casey King, a certified therapy and recreation specialist with Virginia Beach Recreation Centers.

King and his team worked together to make the in-person fun at Virginia Beach Recreation Centers — virtual fun.

“They had arts and crafts, science and nature, leisure ed, sports and fitness, so we kept it like camp. We kept it fun and engaging, but still with that structure, so that was kind of a unique experience,” said King.

King says the fun does not end with the summer. He says it will continue through the fall.

“Right now, we have 11 virtual programs that we have online active for people to sign up for. Right now we’re going to stay virtual,” said King.

Wiltshire and Olivia are so thankful for that.

“This has been her main social network through the whole summer, and we anticipate through the fall. It’s just going to continue to grow and for us, it’s just critical because her mental health is super critical,” said Wiltshire.

King says you’ll find programs for children and adults with disabilities on the Virginia Beach Recreation Centers website. Think fitness, bringing the outdoors online, trivia, and much more.

Wiltshire hopes other families who have children with disabilities realize the importance of these programs and take advantage of them.

“Therapeutic rec is definitely a unique family in itself and just reach out and just become a part of the family, I think. That’s how they make you feel, really,” said Wiltshire.

You don’t have to be a member of the recreation center to participate in the virtual programs — and you don’t have to live in Virginia Beach. You don’t even have to live in Hampton Roads. Also, many of the programs are free or are low cost.

To take a look at the fall virtual programs, or to sign up, click here.

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