Occupational therapy students volunteer at Wilson Workforce's Outdoor Day


By: Occupational Therapy Program

WWRC Outdoor Day

Tucked away in Fishersville, Virginia lies Woodrow Wilson Recreational Center (WWRC), a trade school created to help individuals with disabilities recognize their full potential while gaining more independence through employment. At WWRC each client receives specialized care designed to help him or her achieve his or her occupational dreams.

JMU has maintained a close relationship with WWRC for several years; the OT students have visited WWRC for learning and volunteering opportunities. On Saturday, September 10th, the Class of 2018 participated in Outdoor Day, an event held at WWRC. The event provided opportunities for participants to engage in outdoor activities such as kayaking, fishing, tennis, scuba diving, bowling, and archery. The JMU OT students were able to come alongside and assist participants in activities they desired to engage in. This provided students with the chance to assist in different types of transfers, and see how adaptions can be made so individuals, regardless of what his or her disability is, can engage in occupations that bring joy.

This event gave real life experience to the content the Class of 2018 is studying in class. Learning about the risks individuals with a spinal cord injury (SCI) take every time he or she engages in a novel activity has more meaning and gravity when one is able to witness individuals with an SCI participating in new activities. The creativity involved in grading tasks and the communication that takes place between a therapist and client throughout an activity is better understood when able to be a part of the communication and grading process. Not only did many of the students learn a lot about the risks that are taken, the importance of effective communication, and the process of grading tasks, but many students also developed bonds with the participants they were assisting. The conversation that ensued gave an even further glimpse into what living with a disability is like.

Aside from getting the privilege to work alongside the participants and build relationships, the OT students were also able to work alongside other therapists, specifically Therapeutic Recreation Therapists. Learning more about the profession of Recreational Therapy, and how it is similar to and different from Occupational Therapy provided greater insight into the importance of both types of therapy and the great potential for collaboration between the two professions.

The WWRC Outdoor Day was very empowering for both participants and volunteers. The participants were able to engage in outdoor activities they are not able to frequently partake in, while learning the sky is the limit to what they can do and the volunteers experienced first hand the joy that comes from helping people do what they love. Most importantly, both groups benefited from the new friendships that were formed, as was evident from the bright smiles and joyous laughter that marked that day.

From the students:

“My WWRC experience gave me a beginners insight into SCI individuals and how I can continue to build my knowledge on SCI’s in occupational therapy. The positive energy and attitude of every individual created a rewarding and educational experience!” 
-Mady Baker

“I was so inspired by the creativity displayed and used during the event. From adaptive hand bikes to adaptive ways to shoot a crossbow, there were activities for everyone. I was also very moved by the positivity from participants and volunteers, it was infectious. Everyone worked together to be sure participants were able to partake in the activities they wished.”
-Jeanine Rossi

"I learned a lot about proper communication when explaining techniques to individuals with spinal cord injury. It was important to explain the rules of wheel-chair tennis and compare it to able-bodied tennis in a way that did not make the participants feel inferior or less able. For example, when the instructor explained that there are two bounces of the ball before the return in wheel-chair tennis compared to the able-bodied one, he did not convey that the additional bounce given to wheel-chair players would make it any easier for them to get to the ball compared to an able-bodied individual, but rather, that they were the same level of difficulty and just right challenge. In addition to proper instruction, lots of encouragement was provided for the participants so that they could feel encouraged to keep playing even if they felt like hitting the ball was tough. I believe that the constant praise and attention from the other volunteers and I made them feel limitless. My role as a volunteer was to take lots of pictures and cheer loudly when they returned the ball to the other volunteers. I felt that my role increased the energy of the participants and made them radiate happiness."
-Cameron Williams

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Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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