Members create Land Of Oz at Pine St. Day Habilitation in Hamburg
By SHERRY HALBROOK
When someone says, “The whole building was happy!” you know it was a very special day. And that is how PEF member Matt North described August 25 at the Pine Street Day Habilitation Program in Hamburg.
North and all of the program’s staff made that day magical by hosting a special program based on “The Wizard of Oz” for all 65 of the individuals who receive services there and for approximately 50 individuals and staff from other residential and treatment programs coordinated through the Western NY Developmental Disabilities Services Office.
“Every year, the day habilitation programs do a special event,” said PEF member Karen Jurgielewicz, a developmental specialist 3 who is the Pine Street Day Habilitation program coordinator. “Each program picks its own theme and the day to host a special event.”
Angel Krenek, a habilitation specialist 1 and member of PEF Division 243, said she suggested “The Wizard of Oz” theme because she had seen several of the individuals in her class who rarely respond to stimulation become attentive and responsive when they saw the film. And her co-workers agreed it was a great idea.
“Everyone in our day hab program brainstormed on this and they worked for four months on it,” Jurgielewicz said. “Everybody put their ‘two cents’ in. I have to commend the staff. We have a lot of very creative people here and they put in a tremendous effort.”
The day hab program has seven rooms and each room has approximately three staff. When the individuals and guests arrived on August 25, they were given baskets of special items including a balloon, DVD of the film, a heart, a diploma, cookie “lollipops” and coloring pages with antique images of the characters and scenes. They also found a “yellow brick road” leading them through the building, with each stop sequentially keyed to the story of Dorothy and her dog, Toto, who experience a tornado and find themselves swept into the land of Oz where they encounter a tin man in search of a heart, a scarecrow in search of a brain, a cowardly lion in search of courage, a good witch and a bad witch, the Emerald City and the wizard.
Staff members were costumed as characters, the entire building was decorated and activities were designed around the theme to take maximum advantage of the abundant opportunities for sensory stimulation.
At the first stop, North was the Uncle Henry character and that room was decorated as a cornfield when the tornado struck. He used bottles of water with tiny houses and buildings (Monopoly game pieces) inside so the individuals could see how the tornado swirled them around.
Another room was the forest where apple trees had thrown apples at Dorothy, the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion. In that room, PEF member Phil Lieber, a habilitation specialist 1, was dressed as one of the trees.
“We had some pretty elaborate trees,” Lieber said. Since the trees in the story throw apples, he invited visitors to toss soft, red “apple” stress balls to one another. They made little hearts in honor of the Tin Man and they enjoyed applesauce treats.
North and Beth Zaenglein said the individuals in the classes had helped in every way they could to prepare for the occasion and two of them came dressed as “munchkins” from the Land of Oz.
“It was really neat how everyone participated,” North said.
“I can’t forget how excited one of our individuals was when he got off the bus that morning and saw me in my Dorothy costume,” Zaenglein said. “He threw his hands in the air and sprinted to me. All day they kept coming up to me and I thought it was because of my Dorothy costume, but it was Toto. Everyone wanted to hug the little toy dog I carried in my basket.”In her classroom, Krenek was dressed as Glenda, The Good Witch of the North. She touched each person with her wand as they entered. “I asked them if they were a good witch or a bad witch and those who wanted to be good witches were given a pink crown to wear. We also had a big pink balloon filled with a mixture of helium and air that floated suspended in the room and looked like the bubble that Glenda arrives in. Both good witches and bad witches received a cookie lollipop. And we had lots of lights and glitter to add to the sensory stimulation.”
“We played a game where those who were brave enough put their hands into a box and tried to guess what they felt inside,” Krenek said. “We had different textures that included rice, beads, cooked spaghetti and even water. Everyone who was brave enough to do it, received a badge of courage. They were all really excited.
“Every square inch of this building was decorated. Our dining hall was the Emerald City. I’m proud of what we did here,” Krenek said. “We wanted to brighten everybody’s day, and I don’t think even one person wasn’t smiling when they walked out. We had a great time!”
Krenek came in for special praise from her co-workers.
“Angel really went above and beyond, spending her nights and weekends researching ideas, baking the lollipop cookies and doing so much,” Zaenglein said. “She deserves a lot of credit.
“It was a really special, fun day for everyone!”