The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

Entries for December 2011

We All Bring Gifts

The blog this week is by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute

One of the many steps we need to take to create communities that include everyone is to recognize the gifts that each person brings to our common life.

Historically, all too often we have seen, and related to, people with disabilities only as recipients of what others bring. In the new order of things we see people with disabilities as gifted in some ways, just as we all are. We also see them as people with much to offer the community. We hold them accountable to make contributions to others, just as we all must.

In this season of giving, let us look closely at the gifts each of us makes of our selves, our creations, and what we all add to the total assets of our communities.

A New Singing Career

The first time we met Pete he told us that he didn’t have a lot of time to do things in the community because he had baseball games to watch. However, he sang “There’s no business like show business” in an Ethel Merman-like voice for us. And then he proclaimed that he had “Mermanized” us! His father then told us that Pete used to sing in competitions around Michigan.

Pete has a wonderful voice and finally told us that he would like to perform again. He said that he had performed in nursing homes in the past and would be willing to try again.

Now, once or twice a month Pete goes to a couple of assistive care facilities in Kalamazoo and preforms for the residents. To their delight he loves to sing show tunes and has a really large repertoire of songs. Pete enjoys interacting with the residents as well. He seems to have time away from watching sports on TV and is looking forward to more opportunities to perform. Pete is “mermanizing” the community!


At The Arcadia Institute, we all are reading the book, “The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv. In the book, the author makes the case that we all are becoming more and more separated from the natural world. It seems that no matter where people live, less time is spent in the natural world around us – and children are experiencing “nature deficit disorder.”

I won’t go into detail about all of the research that Louv has done, but do highly recommend that you read the book.

What I do want to share is that as I’m reading the book – I am noticing how much less time my family spends in nature just enjoying it, learning from it and experiencing all of the benefits from it. I notice that my son simply sees nature as something that gets in the way of his skateboard time. I know parents who won’t let their children play outside – it’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s too damp. Look around yourself. Are you disconnected from nature?

Louv contends that being in Nature really helps children with attention problems be able to focus. Their behavior improves. So I want to end with this. Just yesterday, I was speaking with a mom whose son went to the Kalamazoo Nature Center day camp one week last summer. This little boy struggles with attention and emotional problems. His mother told me that the Nature Center experience was the best thing that ever happened to him. The whole week he was in camp his behavior was wonderful. No inappropriate language, yelling or major meltdowns.

I’m not sure I would have really understood the importance of what she was saying if I wasn’t reading Louv’s book.

So go outside a bit each day and reflect on how each experience effects you. You may be pleasantly surprised (even if it is not your favorite season!)

Tis the Season for Giving

In the course of our work to help people with disabilities to have opportunities to participate in community activities and programs of their choice, there can be challenges. One challenge for many of our Participants is the ability to fully pay registration fees or costs for equipment. We work diligently to use resources the Participants already have access to before we use our funding. Also, if it will not be possible to sustain funding for someone to participate in an activity in one organization, we try our best to find alternatives that are low to no cost.

If you are supportive of the work of The Arcadia Institute please consider a gift this season. You may be helping a young girl go to a cheerleading tournament, a person take an art class for the first time or even purchase software that talks for someone with a visual disability.

If you are willing to make a contribution to The Arcadia Institute you can do so through our Pay Pal button.

Thank you.