March 14, 2012

by: LeafBridge Services Contributor

Peers-Activities-Connect: PAC

Hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t that the saying? But of course as an adult, looking back to our own teenage years we  realize that it was a critical time in developing our concept of community and the understanding of how our actions impacted not only family and friends but also the greater public. Through the groups that we are involved with as teens we are able to learn the importance of volunteerism, community advocacy and individual impact. Having a positive peer group is often the first step in that journey. Here at UCP, our therapists recently identified that many of our teenage clients were looking for just that, a positive peer group that offered peer to peer interaction through recreational activities, and the PAC was born. This week Becky Ravas, UCP Physical Therapist, shares the story of how the PAC came to be and the growing impact it is having on this group of future community leaders.

Right now there are a handful of clients that we are treating who are teenagers or nearly teenagers. Some are active in the community and others are more isolated. We began to schedule some of the teenage kids for therapy at the same time and they began to naturally form friendships. The therapists witnessed a blossoming of social skills during these interactions and we wanted to facilitate the formation of a peer group. So, a handful of therapists planned a social evening for a dozen teens, their siblings and friends–strictly social with no therapy agenda. This was an opportunity for Children’s Services staff to commend the teens for being role models and outstanding students and all around cool kids. We also asked them what they would like get out of being part of a teen group at UCP. Most of the teens didn’t know each other, but that didn’t matter and after a few ice breakers, the teens were quickly vocal about their desire for more recreational opportunities, wanting to plan social activities like a spaghetti dinner for their families and an opportunity to “hang out” with the UCP staff in a social atmosphere. Our first meeting was filled with uncertainty, but ended with a teen invasion of the therapy gym with a couple kids on swings and several others engaged in a koosh ball battle with the Children’s Services staff, even Intesar, our department Director.

What came out of this first meeting was the understanding that each one of these unique kids had something to share; and that we absolutely had to do it again. We ended up naming the group the PAC, an acronym for Peers Activities Connect. A second and third event soon followed. The second event was more elaborate with invitations sent out, high school volunteers invited, food provided and a speaker from the Metroparks Institute of the Great Outdoors (IGO). During dinner, attendees heard a presentation about potential outdoor and recreational activities from IGO. After the presentation, the teens were divided up into three groups and sent on a Scavenger Hunt throughout the building. The evening was full of giggling as they raced to win the scavenger hunt. The third event was off site at Dancing Wheels, a UCP partner, with a smaller turn out but just as much energy.

The PAC evenings are full of fun and laughter. The events are opening up to teens outside of UCP and participants invite their siblings and friends. The PAC has developed into a club for a unique group of individuals who want to be part of a fun, social group to form friendships and get involved in community recreational activities. Parents are also invited and are offered the opportunity to be social with other parents and meet with UCP case managers on issues that are important to them.

The next PAC event is coming up tomorrow, Thursday March 15th! We will be holding a Shamrock Party complete with green food on the menu, a chance to slime the therapist with green slime and a “dress up the leprechaun” contest. If you would like more information about the PAC and our events, please contact Children’s Services at 216-791-8363 x250.

Becky Ravas
UCP Physical Therapist

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