Respite and Recreation for Adults with Special Needs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        
November 16, 2018

Simitian: “Via West – giving life-long support”

San Jose - Thanksgiving comes early at Via West, a 13-acre residential camp in the Cupertino foothills for individuals with severe disabilities. This year, with a theme of “giving back,” more than 60 adults will attend the weekend-long Thanksgiving camp, which includes a grocery shopping excursion Friday Nov. 16, stocking the pantry at a local shelter on Saturday, and, in the evening, feasting on the turkey dinner that they’ve helped prepare in the camp’s lodge. 

“Everyone goes around and says what they’re thankful for, and if you don’t have waterproof mascara on, you’re in trouble,” said Leslie Davis, CEO of Via Services, which operates Via West. “It can be as simple as having real turkey for the first time in years. It’s so wonderful and heartfelt.”

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor’s President Joe Simitian championed a County scholarship program that’s making it possible for many Via West clients to attend this year’s Thanksgiving camp, or one of Via West’s other residential camps offered in 2018. “The County’s grant helped us tremendously. We don’t want to turn anybody away because of inability to pay, and we haven’t,” Davis said.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to support Via West, where kids, teens and adults with special needs can be together, have

a good time, and get the dedicated support they need,” Simitian said. “Via West also provides a place of respite for families and caregivers, who know that their loved ones are in a safe environment while they get a much-needed break.”

For a weekend-long camp, fees range from $610 to $730, depending on the counselor-participant staffing ratio. While much of the cost is covered by the San Andreas Regional Center, an out-of-pocket supplemental daily rate – akin to an insurance co-pay – of $85 makes attending camp impossible for some families.

In 2017, at Simitian’s request, the Board unanimously voted to allocate $60,000 over three years to provide scholarships for Via West clients. The City of San Jose matched the funding. In its first year, the grant program provided 74 individuals with scholarships of up to $500 to cover the supplemental daily rate.

“Making sure that folks can take advantage of the respite, care, and developmental and vocational training provided at Via West aligns with our existing efforts to ensure safe, healthy lives for all in the County,” said Simitian. “With the City of San Jose matching the County’s support, we’re able to double our impact.”

Simitian praised Via Services’ history of contribution to the community – “giving life-long support” to individuals and families since 1945. Via West welcomes campers as young as four years, nine months, and the oldest participant currently is 88 years old. One client has been with the program for 49 years.

Located in Fremont Older Open Space Preserve, with a horse corral, accessible trails, swimming pools, a garden and greenhouse, and creative and performing arts facilities for social and recreational activities, the camp also provides independent living experiences for adult participants, who receive training in money management, culinary arts, and vocational training.

With conditions like autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and epilepsy, many Via West clients have needs that preclude them from other residential camp experiences.

Via West, however, accepts individuals regardless of their medical needs or behavior restrictions, offering weekend residential camps throughout the year, and sleepaway summer camps that range from three to 12 days. (A day option is also offered.) In addition to trained counselors, the Via West campus has onsite nursing and nutrition staff.

The County’s scholarship funding was particularly helpful in encouraging first-time camp attendees, Davis said: “A lot of these participants have never been away from their parents. If we can make it not break the family’s pocketbook, they can try us out. It’s a lifetime bond that we form.”
The scholarships for Via West clients builds on Simitian’s previous efforts to serve adults and youth with disabilities:

  • Funding for affordable housing units with supportive services specifically for those living with developmental disabilities in the very-low-income and extremely-low-income brackets
  • County matching funds to build all-inclusive playgrounds in Santa Clara County


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