I think that I just had the best week in a long time. At the end of July 2016, my church Messiah United Methodist in Springfield, Virginia had Vacation Bible school. I volunteered to lead the 1/2 hour recreation session for the PreK-ers. There were 5 sessions each morning, the day lasted from 9am-12pm. At my church, vacation Bible school is for elementary age kids at the church to learn a spiritual lesson while doing fun activities like arts and crafts, music, a science experiment and ha worship service. In the mornings, all the kids gathered in the sanctuary where Sunday morning worship is held. The pastor of the church wore a Hawaiian shirt, straw hat and had ‘Snappy the crab’ (a hand puppet) give the morning lesson. The theme for this year’s study was Surf Shack- and the church was decorated with fun surfboards and beach balls.
This was an exciting opportunity for me, having graduated with a Therapeutic Recreation degree, this falls under my field of study. I get to plan activities and work with a different population of people with which I’m used to working. Each day before, I prepared index cards with the activities that we would do according to the lesson, something that I’ve learned from my Program Planning class I took for my major, Therapeutic Recreation, earning a degree at Longwood University.
When the kids first got into the youth center, my assistant (volunteer strong teenager) got out all the equipment and there were 15 little tricycles that the kids got to jump on and race around the gym, exert some energy that all 3 year olds have. We would do many different activities, like “Surfer Says”, played just like Simon Says, “Shrimp shrimp Crab” duck duck goose. Shrimp, shrimp crab was a really tough game for me. Having been in a car accident, resulting in a traumatic brain injury and I have had a difficulty with walking and balance. Ever since my car accident I have not yet mastered the art of running. Many little kids liked picking me, forcing me to run around the circle. I tried to run, am sure I looked very foolish, but no one called me out. I think some kids may have even let me catch them! I wasn’t going to tell the little kids about my ‘invisible injury,’ because I think that at ages 3 and 4 the children would not really understand, and it would be better to keep the focus on God, and not on me, this is Vacation Bible School, after all.
I planned out relays for the kids to race; there was a plastic pool filled with Styrofoam packing peanuts you would find in a delicate contents inside of a mailing package. The kids formed two groups, divided by ‘who likes ice cream?’ or ‘who likes pizza?,’ each team had a sand pail and a little plastic shovel and tried to fill the pails up. There was parachute that the 2 children named would run under and switch places when the names are called, and with beach balls it would take teamwork to get all of the balls to one side or the other. Of course some sharing of the Bible verse or topic of the day is included among the fun activities.
My major at Longwood University, Therapeutic Recreation has played a big role in preparing me for many different occupations and has molded me into a person who keeps fun and caring on the same plane in anything and everything that I do.
I have worked with many different populations in the past; mental healthcare recreation, assisted living adult population and the nursing home. I have preformed an internship at the Northern Virginia Training Center working with adults with mental incapabilities, in which we went on walks around and outside of the campus, social events like going out for coffee with the residents, participate in a Special Olympics competition and swimming. At the nursing home, some of the physical activities the residents participate in adaptive bowling, balloon or frisbee tossing. We even use the same type of parachute as the youth in the church. My Therapeutic Recreation degree from Longwood University has prepared me to be very versatile as I use my skills with many different groups of people. No matter what, Longwood has taught me excellent social skills and how to effectively and compassionately work with people in general. I have in the past and am currently working and interacting with many different people, but no matter who I work with, I am having a ball! There are endless possibilities as to what to do with a therapeutic recreation degree from Longwood, and having fun is the main goal in Therapeutic Recreation!