Center reopens after 2 years

Open house shows off renovations

BOARDMAN — Luke Neer’s favorite activities include cooking, playing football and numerous other pursuits that require good socialization — something his mother initially feared could be interrupted.

“He was social (especially in high school), but when that ends, it’s harder to find things like that,” Christine Neer of Deerfield said. “It’s a lot harder for people with disabilities to socialize and feel included.”

That gap likely will be filled, however, thanks to the reopening of the Down Syndrome Association of the Valley’s Regional Center for Success, 945 Boardman-Canfield Road, which also underwent a major seven-month renovation project.

The center was the centerpiece for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house Wednesday to celebrate its expansion and return after a hiatus of more than two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Luke, 21, who has Down syndrome, learned this summer to ride a bicycle, thanks to DSAV’s Adaptive Bicycle Camp.

While a student at Southeast High School in Ravenna, he was homecoming king and on the football team. Luke now attends VisionQuest, a transition school in Ravenna for those with Down syndrome and other conditions up to age 22, in which the focuses are on activities of daily living as well as improving employment skills, healthful habits and community involvement, his mother explained.

The renovations began in January and, in effect, doubled the center’s space, Deborah Williams, DSAV’s director of operations, said.

They include a spacious resource center with a variety of books, materials and other information about Down syndrome, as well as packets for new parents. In addition, the area allows those with the condition to engage in arts and crafts, which also can enhance socialization and communication, Williams said, adding that some of the adults with Down syndrome made blankets for babies.

“We also provide books to schools” throughout eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, which is DSAV’s coverage area, she continued.

Also in the mix is a state-of-the-art kitchen in which initially those 16 and older can learn life skills, take cooking, food-preparation and nutrition classes, and learn safety measures such as properly using a knife, all under supervision, Williams noted.

In addition, the center has a fitness room for yoga as well as music and movement, all of which are set to begin next month. Also available is a private room for one-on-one tutoring and therapies, along with a stage for improving communication skills, she said, adding that DSAV is developing a speech program.

The nonprofit DSAV organization, established in 2007, is committed to offering a variety of resources, support, education, advocacy and opportunities to those with the condition, as well as their families and communities. To that end, program offerings include tennis, swimming and other fitness efforts; therapy programs such as effective communication and social skills therapy; and family social events.

The agency also seeks to maintain an environment that is “diverse, inclusive and equitable, where all staff, families, volunteers and board members are treated with respect and dignity,” according to its mission statement.

For Williams and others, merely seeing the center’s return and resumption of programs is heartwarming, she said.

“We’re just thrilled to be open,” Williams added.

DSAV will be hosting the 15th annual Buddy Walk, set for Sept. 18 at Eastwood Field in Niles. To register, go to www.dsav.org.


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