By Teri Carnicelli
The Arizona Recreation Center for the Handicapped (ARCH) on Jan. 15 celebrated the grand opening of its new Diamondbacks Den, a space dedicated to the nonprofit’s therapeutic afterschool children’s program, known as ARCHKids.
Until that day, the children would have to divide their time between the gymnasium and the one indoor space that was shared with the ARCH adult program. Sometimes the adults and kids would be in the overcrowded room at the same time, separated only by an accordion divider.
ARCH first opened its doors in 1975 and has been a hub of activity in the special needs community for 40 years. The nonprofit provides therapeutic recreation, socialization opportunities, health and wellness programs, and life skills education. Programs for children, teens and adults are offered simultaneously at the 5-acre main campus, and the stream of participants coming and going is constant.
ARCHKids offers after-school programs, drop-in programs, summer camps, school break camps, and more. ARCH provides extended hours, a great benefit to working families. The cost is only $2 per day, however, no family is turned away because of the inability to pay. Scholarships are available.
In recent years, ARCH experienced a significant increase in program attendance largely due to state budget cuts that affected other service providers. That increase had led to serious overcrowding issues.
Kip Murray, whose mother, Mary Lees, was one of the original founders, has served as executive director for the four decades of the organization’s existence. “We’ve seen a 15 percent decrease in funding assistance from the state and yet are dealing with a 30 percent increase primarily in our adult clients,” she said. “We may be the only agency in the Valley that takes these unfunded people and provides a service to they for just $2 a day. We do a lot of fundraising; thank goodness the community has been so supportive.”
“We are honored to be considered a friend of the Arizona Diamondbacks and grateful to receive the Grand Slam Award of $100,000 to jump-start our project,” said Joe Causey, vice president of the ARCH Board of Directors. “We are relieved that we are now able to address our overcrowding issue and can now accept and serve more people at this facility.”
There were many additional donors who made the new ARCHKids Diamondbacks Den possible.
Debbie Castaldo, executive director of the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation, said, “The reason we feel so passionate about this particular project is that love lives here. Families have been coming here for generations, and the teachers and social workers and other staff have been here, some for decades, because they love it here. Every child deserves a big dream; you level the playing field and make those dreams possible.”
The new Diamondbacks Den gives the children in the ARCHKids program a separate space to call their own for their indoor activities. The children also now have their own restrooms and storage area. A door leading the outside may soon offer access to a private playground. ARCH currently is fundraising for that project, and received a big boost from the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA), but still need about $70,000. The goal is to break ground this summer and have it completed by the end of they year.
For more information about ARCH, visit http://www.archaz.org. To make a contribution to the playground fund, contact Director of Development Terri Perillo at 602-230-2226.