2014 Nassau BOCES Education Partner Award Honoree

Town of Hempstead ANCHOR Program

Town of Hempstead ANCHOR Program

Joseph Lentini

The Town of Hempstead ANCHOR Program has been an essential fixture in Long Island's special needs community for more than 40 years. The program offers a year-round therapeutic recreational program for children and adults with special needs, but it is best known for its comprehensive six-week summer program.

The results of therapeutic recreation have been well documented and include physiological benefits, such as an increased healthy and active lifestyle, as well as improved gross and fine motor skills. There are also psychological benefits including stronger social skills, reduced anxiety, improved confidence and self-esteem, increased independence, better quality of life, and self-control.

The program reinforces what individuals have achieved in school, at work, or in other areas of their lives. The camp collaborates closely with public schools, special needs programs and families to impact the health and lives of those it services for the greater good. The ANCHOR program runs on the principle that true inclusion happens only when we are able to look beyond a person's disabilities. Great emphasis is being placed on the inclusion of children with disabilities in school activities; the camp holds that the same level of inclusion must take place in community activities as well.

With a staff of nearly 300 (many of which are volunteers), ANCHOR serves approximately 1,200 individuals with varying disabilities each year. The use of volunteers isn't simply cost-effective -- it's a fundamental component of the camp's philosophy. Volunteers increase community awareness and promote inclusion, and at The ANCHOR program, these are the building blocks of a better future.

"Everyone loses when certain parts of a community are excluded, because each of us has something of value to give and share," wrote the program's award nominator. "The ANCHOR program continues to work hard at bringing down the barriers of exclusion and to open the doors of inclusion for all disabled persons. The program provides a safe environment where individuals build strong relationships and trust. It is an extension of a special needs education with consistent reinforcement, direction and understanding."