ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, GO!
Agency’s Respite Program is Back in Action
On Saturday, October 16th, On Your Mark reopened the doors to its beloved in-person Saturday Respite program! Under the new direction of Joelle Bilotti, Caitlin Gardner, and Jennifer Larsen, the staff welcomed over 50 individuals back to their South Shore location.
Jennifer Larsen, who began her career in the Respite department in 1998, currently supports all programs and departments in her role as Associate Executive Director. “We’ve been working hard to enhance our Respite program by developing a robust offering for so many families in need. It’s very exciting to reopen our doors slowly and safely, so that we can help our individuals get back to socializing with their friends!” Joelle Bilotti, previously On Your Mark’s Assistant Director of Day Habilitation, has been with the agency for over 10 years and has worked to open many of their renowned Community-Based Day Habilitation programs. “I am so excited to see all of our hard work come to fruition. We have virtual Zoom four times a week and I can see how eager all of the individuals are to get back in, see their friends, and to just have fun! I am lucky to be a part of such a caring and loyal organization.” Finally, Caitlin Gardner has been with the agency for over 15 years and has worked to support and create numerous programs at On Your Mark. She states that they are “happy to be back providing this much needed service to the individuals and their families once again.”
On Your Mark’s Respite program is well known for its diverse array of activities. From overnight trips to Camp Chen-A-Wanda, to day trips to see a Broadway show; there’s no uncharted waters for this program. Individuals are accustomed to pursuing all types of interests including yoga, sports, arts and crafts, and more! Long-time On your Mark individual, Ricky White expressed that he is “happy to go back to On Your Mark Respite program and see all my friends.” He enjoys “playing basketball with his best friend Joe, art class, cooking class, computers, fitness class, and weightlifting because [his] girlfriend likes [his] muscles!”
For those who are unfamiliar, Respite programs were originally designed to give an individual’s primary caretakers a break, sometimes in the form of overnight getaways, other times as recreational programs on nights and weekends. On Your Mark welcomes each opportunity to serve an individual and their family under any circumstances. Parents and caregivers rely on these types of programs to enhance the lives of their loved ones by providing them with services that promote independence. “The program is very good for the children. It gives the guys something to do and something to look forward to. The people who work for On Your Mark are such amazing and fantastic people. My daughter has attended their program for so many years, I can’t even remember. On Your Mark is her whole life!” says Carmine Amarando, parent of On Your Mark individual.
This program was a vital part of many individuals’ lives and the lapse in routine has severely impacted them. Kim White, parent of Ricky White, said that “due to COVID, the program has been closed. Ricky is so happy to be returning. He has really missed socializing with his peers and all of the fun activities that he would do while there. I look forward to having him get back into his normal routine and resuming a program that encourages his independence, activities, and social skills.”
The lapse in fully reopening On Your Mark’s Respite Program also disrupted the lives of many loyal staff members. They are looking forward to returning just as much as the individuals! Gina Savage, who has been employed with On Your Mark for over 10 years, is excited to get this program back up and running. “I have 9 years’ experience working for On Your Mark’s Respite Program, and I am so grateful to be involved again. Our individuals and staff have endured many changes and hardships during the pandemic but have stayed “On Your Mark Strong” and are looking forward to launching a great new season of Respite programming. I can’t wait to get started!”
The new Saturday program will run October 16, 2021 through June 25, 2022 at the South Shore JCC and will include lots of past activities, including some new ideas suggested by families and individuals! If you, or someone you know, is interested in On Your Mark’s services, (which include Community Habilitation, Employment Services, Day Habilitation, Residential and, of course, Respite) please reach out to their Intake and Entitlements Coordinator, Elizabeth Ciraola at 718-720-9233 ext. 5061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. And, if you, or someone you know, is interested in applying for a position at On Your Mark please visit www.onyourmark.org/careers