Whole Children is a grassroots organization founded by parents of children with special needs. It was created to fill a significant gap in the existing services provided by local communities.
The center offers a wide range of after-school, weekend, and vacation enrichment programs for children of all ages and abilities, particularly those with special needs. Classes include gymnastics, art, martial arts, dance, music, social skills, yoga, guided recess games, theater, and woodworking.
Our recreation program includes soccer, rock climbing, basketball, and outdoor adventures. Our teen program focuses on teaching skills such as self-advocacy, sexuality and social skills. We also provide a variety of social opportunities to help students develop and sustain friendships.
In 2004 Whole Children opened at 8 River Drive in Hadley, Massachusetts. That year Whole Children offered 16 classes, including yoga and gymnastics and served 43 families. In July, 2010 Whole Children affiliated with the Association For Community Living, an organization in Springfield with a long history of working for and with families and people with special needs.
With the affiliation, Whole Children moved to bigger quarters at 41 Russell Street in Hadley. The site includes a gym, separate movement space for preschoolers, and a teen room. Family Empowerment, also a program of the Association For Community Living, is also at 41 Russell Street and has worked with Whole Children to offer classes and social events for older teens and young adults.
Our 7,600 square foot building includes a gymnasium, sensory movement room (with a ball pit, swings, sensory toys, a trampoline, weighted blankets and pillows, etc.), kitchen, game room, computer lab and several classrooms. We have a space set up as a café that we use during social skills practice – simulating a community experience where students can practice and work on new social skills. We hold monthly “café nights” where students and their families come to the café, order food (cooked by students), sit at tables with friends and eat, talk, play board games. We also have live music as part of the evening.
Whole Children represents a group of parents who have learned that, given the opportunity, our children can far surpass even our own expectations, and the more doors that are open to them, the more they may discover the worlds that await their success.
Carrie McGee – Director
Maggie Rice – Program Director
Marykate Smith Depres – Program Manager
Valle Dwight – Director of Development and Communications
Gail Garrabrants – Administrative Coordinator
Joyce Paige – Administrative and Outreach Coordinator
Chris Harper Brian Melanson
Amanda Kent Pete Smith
Judith Abuza: preschool Ann Marie Flaherty: gymnastics