News

Program for kids with disabilities closing down over funds

Posted March 13

— An Oahu after-school and summer program for youths with disabilities is shutting down at the end of the month due to a lack of funds, leaving families scrambling to find alternatives.

Easter Seals Hawaii President and CEO Ron Brandvold said the organization has 11 students attending its daily youth program. But that number can grow to between 50 and 70 for day camps during spring and summer vacation, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/2mCocJU).

"It's so regrettable, and it's heartbreaking that we have to close this program," Brandvold said. "The number isn't great, but the impact on the lives of those who are receiving the service will be potentially significant."

The program, which offers social and recreational activities for youths ages 6 to 22, will shut down March 31 after 20 years of operation.

"The bottom line is there were not enough sustained funds for it," Brandvold said.

He said Easter Seals will now focus its efforts on early intervention and adult services.

About 1,100 babies and toddlers statewide receive those early intervention services, while more than 1,200 people are enrolled in the Easter Seals adult programs, which foster life skills and social connections. The agency also has a program for people with autism and helps adults with disabilities find jobs.

"Our mission is to empower people with disabilities, with special needs, to achieve their goals and to live independent, fulfilling lives," Brandvold said.

The Youth Enrichment Services program offers kids an opportunity to participate in art, music and computer programs. It is held at two sites, one on Punchbowl and one in Kapolei.

"It's hard that it's closing down," said Sarah Man, whose 12-year-old daughter attended YES. "It was great — good people with big hearts who really care about our kids."

Parents were notified about the program's closure on Feb. 20. Families have been working to find alternatives and sharing information with each other about different opportunities that are available for their children, Man said.

"We're all trying to figure it out together," she said.

The city and county of Honolulu gave Easter Seals a $187,000 grant in 2014. The grant will lapse at the end of the month.

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