Typical childcare ends around age 12 in most programs because most teens are able to safely stay home alone. That isn’t always the case for teens with intellectual and developmental disabilities, leaving their parents to choose between maintaining their regular work schedule or caring for their teen children in the gap between the end of the school day and the end of the standard work day.  Community Living’s SOAR (Social Opportunities and Recreation) program solves their dilemma by offering a fun, safe place for teens to go during that time. SOAR consists of an after-school program called Teen Club, a full-day summer camp, and break camps where teens can go during their school’s fall, winter, and spring breaks.

Overall, the program is a win-win for families because it allows them to maintain employment or accomplish everyday tasks that are more difficult to do with kids along, and it gives the teens a chance to make friends and have fun. “My mom’s either at home, doing work, or doing something with my sisters,” said Adam, a high school senior. “Same,” responded Zoe, who’s in her first year of high school. “My mom has to run errands and do stuff at home and my dad’s usually at work,” said Chris, an eighth grade student who also attends Community Living’s Respite Center on some weekends.

Although they all go to different schools, Adam, Zoe and Chris are still friends and get to hang out together at Teen Club. They ride the bus to school in the morning and then the bus driver takes them to Community Living’s Family Center in O’Fallon after school. Chris is usually eager to get to Teen Club after his classes end. He said one time the bus driver was taking a while to get going and he said, “Come on, Mr. Eddie, let’s go. I wanna go to Teen Club!”

When they get to the Family Center, the participants are paired up with a staff member, usually also a high school or college student. “I love how all the staff here are supporters and they’re all friends,” Adam said. Teen Club offers pre-planned activities like recipes, games, and crafts, but the participants are also free to just hang out. Zoe said one of her favorite things to do at Teen Club is making slime. After a long day of learning, Adam likes to just relax, unwind, and read. Chris is usually looking for a group to play cards with. War and Uno are some of his favorites. “You kind of just get to chill and do what you want,” Chris said.

All three participants have also attended SOAR’s summer camp program. They said 2022 camp was particularly fun because they were able to get out and do more in the community again. “We went on a field trip every day almost except for Fridays,” Chris said. He got to hold a snake at Critter Lane over the summer and said he also really liked going to the pool. He did a backflip off the diving board and did a big bellyflop “for the crowd,” on purpose, according to him. “My stomach was glowing red when I got out of the pool and everyone was pointing at me.” Zoe said she also really enjoyed going to the water park and Adam says he preferred the indoor action at Urban Air and Rockin’ Jump.

Through a YOP Tax Credit, you can pay less in Missouri state income tax while supporting Community Living’s SOAR program. Individuals who make a financial contribution of $100 or more to Community Living may be eligible to receive this kind of tax credit.