Please enjoy these updates, photos, & more that involve our New Jersey Day Program spaces. We update this page often so check back in with us soon for more live updates.
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The “Farewell, Summer!” Carnival
August 26th, 2022
It was not easy to say our goodbyes to this year’s summer. But while all good things must come to an end, it doesn’t mean they have to end quietly – so we figured it might as well end with a carnival. Yes, there was a dunk tank. All kinds of carnival games. We even had a caricature artist. We spared no one and nothing to make sure this was a proper send off to our most energetic summer yet.
As usual, this event took weeks of planning, creating, and execution – however, once or twice a season we make the event extra fun by hosting a competition between departments. The winner receives major bragging rights in addition to a $100 cash prize for their department. This time we challenged each department to create a custom carnival game for the clients based on five criteria: it must be Fun, Functional, Creative, Colorful, and Accessible. The judges for the competition would be the previous winners, the Enrichment Team, who could not participate this round. (For fairness, the team and clients decided to always assign judging duty to the previous winning department for the following competition.)
There was Balloon Pop, a Ring Toss, Angry Birds Slingshot, Pie in the Face, Toss the Cookie, and Race the Spaghetti! All the carnival games were astoundingly creative but the first place prize went to the PT Department for their Angry Birds Slingshot game, with a well-deserved second place going to the Pie in the Face game from the Speech Department (specifically to our Speech Therapist Erin Alvino for volunteering her face!) It begs the question, what wouldn’t we do for these clients?
Pie in the Face!
More than anything else during the summer carnival, the clients look forward to the dunk tank. It’s their chance to dunk their favorite (or their not so favorite) staff. Here was this year’s roster:
Will, Activity Specialist
Tiffany, Director of Vocational and Cognitive Therapy
Lawrence, Physical Therapy Aid
Ryan, Speech Therapist
Nancy, Head RN of the Medical Department
Erin, Speech Therapist
These names were high on the clients’ lists for dunk victims. But in great spirit, all of the above mentioned braved the dunk tank like champions and encouraged the clients to do their worst. In order to drop the staff into the water the clients had to throw a ball from behind the marked line and hit the target with enough aim and strength. We are happy to report that the clients made sure every person on that list went for a swim.
The star of our show, THE DUNK TANK
During an event like this, our therapists incorporate all kinds of therapy sessions into the activities. The PT department worked with individual clients at the dunk tank on goals such as standing balance, coordination, and strength. The carnival games were designed not only to be fun, functional, and accessible to the clients but to also work on Occupational, Physical, and Cognitive therapy goals as well. The therapists at UI Rehab have always believed that great therapy should not be confined to just a gym inside a building – even if it means creating a carnival right in our own courtyard.
Farewell, Summer! See you next year.
Love, UI Rehab
Caricatures and Their Models!…
August 5th, 2022
There are rare moments that rise above even our greatest expectations, as if some invisible force works on our behalf without us being aware. For Universal, this event was one of those times.
Back in May, two therapists from our OT department – Casey and Alyson – had a vision of holding a summer prom for the clients. For most of us, prom is a memory of innocence and first crushes, when we put on our prettiest dresses and nicest suits to dance all night with our friends. Unfortunately, many of our clients have never been given the opportunity to experience a prom for themselves. Casey and Alyson wanted to make up for that, and thus, the seed of inspiration was planted.
It’s strange how quickly great ideas take on a life of their own. As the vision of a prom began to spread around the day program, solid plans took root very quickly. The Enrichment team, led by Shawna and Lauren, immediately began to help organize and delegate the details and responsibilities. While ideas may seem fun on paper, this event required serious logistical planning and coordination between all departments and staff.
Within a few weeks every single department and individual had some kind of role to play in helping to bring this prom to life. There was an enormous amount of work to be done but we were up for the challenge. Our vocational department Tru and the talented Naty worked with the clients to create the photo booth and the props. The DDD day program staff spent weeks shopping to make sure each client had a formal outfit to wear; the residential managers and staff from our group homes did the same for their clients. Alyssa from our corporate office provided all of the balloon art. Our Care Coordinator Megan and her daughter Mia spent the night prior to the prom setting up the dining hall and decorations. The DSP staff also provided the clients with an upscale prom lunch experience with black tablecloths, goldware, and a special lunch. The speech department ran the punch bar. Lastly, and most importantly, the therapists working the event were there to ensure that no one missed out on the fun, assisting the clients up and out of their wheelchairs so they could stand and dance as much as they wanted.
The event day began from 9:30am-12:30pm with a Beauty Bar and Grooming Station run by two hair and cosmetology volunteers whose job was to make the clients look and feel extra special. From 11:30am-1:30pm the clients were provided with a fine dining experience in the dining hall. After that, it was party time! From 1:30pm-3:30pm the prom consisted of dancing with DJ John, the Photo Booth in the Activity Gym, a sensory friendly silent disco in the sensory gym and, of course, the punch station.
By the time the event was over, the reality of the moment became apparent. Both clients and employees – some of whom have been with the company for almost twenty years – said this was their favorite event ever thrown in the history of Universal. There were slow dances and silly pictures, laughter and tears of joy, but mostly there was an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation from everyone in the room. Thank you to Alyson and Casey for your vision, and to every individual who made this such an unforgettable day for the clients.
Lights, Camera, Action!
June 3rd, 2022
For the Livingston UI family, it was another week and another wild Fun Friday! In honor of Pride Month, the clients chose the first week in June to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community by going completely rainbow crazy. During our Wednesday event planning meetings – which consist of over 30 clients and staff both in-person and on Zoom – the group decided on three focuses for Pride day: donuts, decorations, and a parade.
All throughout the week the clients volunteered for various responsibilities in preparation for our Fun Friday. Some clients created decorations and art to hang throughout the day program; others were put in charge of shopping for supplies and of ordering themed masks, while other groups put together music playlists and researched their favorite Pride quotes and phrases. We even baked homemade donuts in our weekly cooking groups that were colorfully decorated (and happily eaten) by the clients.
While our vocational program, Tru, always leaves us in awe at their artistic ideas and creations, all the departments at Universal were just as festive and energetic. The entire building of clients, therapists, and staff seemed to be wearing smiles all day long. The celebration culminated with a group walk around the building made up of anyone who wanted to participate. We marched our parade one purposeful lap around the building waving flags, holding posters, and expressing ourselves in as many ways as we wanted.
More than anything, it was a day to have fun, to celebrate equality, and to support every unique individual both in our organization and in our lives.
Don’t Hide Your Pride – Be YOU!
Banana Split Pudding Cup Group
Day Program in Long Branch today was super sweet! Clients participated in a collaborative occupational therapy and day program activity that created banana pudding sundae treats from scratch. Clients were involved in each step of the process, including being able to taste-test at the end.
March 11th – Universal celebrates Traumatic Brain Injury & Developmental Disability Awareness Month
We had an amazing day sharing laughs, cries, and stories as we all gathered in unison to talk about our clients’ experiences living with traumatic brain injuries and developmental disabilities. Our clients shared stories of their resilience and recovery in an open-mic setting. Clients utilized therapy sessions during the weeks leading up to the event to write their stories with therapists if they wished to participate in the event. During the day of the event, therapy departments assisted by providing their skilled services to ensure that our clients were able to share their stories in a way that captured their courage and resilience. It was an amazing day filled with empowerment.
Friday, January 28th: National Have Fun at Work Day
We had the best time during our National Have Fun at Work Day celebration to end the month of January. We played “large” games in each of our day program spaces, as well as all wore our pajamas to work. What is a better way to have fun while on the job?!
Friday, January 21st: Love Your Brain Yoga & Universal Begin a 6-Week Journey
Today we started a six week journey with Love Your Brain Yoga at our Long Branch day program. Sessions will each be 90-minute sessions that focus on healing, coping, acceptance, and loving our bodies and brains exactly as they are now. We are thrilled to offer this opportunity for our clients, and we are excited for the journey to come.
Friday, January 21st: National Be Healthy Day
We celebrated and promoted a healthy lifestyle this past Friday at UI Rehab in observance of National Be Healthy Day. Our clients were provided with fitness groups and activities that targeted moving around while also having a great time. All day long we offered heart-healthy activities, heart health-based discussion groups, and even client-led fitness videos.
January 14th: National Crazy Hat Day
Today we celebrated National Hat Day at UI Rehab with some crazy hats. We worked all week long during our program hours to ensure that each client had a fun hat to wear that matched their personalities & interests. Our activity specialists made sure that we had a fun day. We also had a Crazy Hat Contest with a mocktail hour cart that toured each of our day program spaces.
December 17th: Christmas “Ugly Sweater” Party
December 10th & 11th: Cookie Baking Week at Day Program
It’s not the holiday season without cookie baking! We spent the last week at our Long Branch & Livingston day programs prepping, baking, and decorating holiday cookies with our special guest, Tiramisuzie. From choosing the type of cookie, to shopping for all of the ingredients, to baking and decorating…we have been very busy! We look forward to packaging up our cookies and donating them to client-chosen places later this week. We hope this post finds you enjoying the holiday season in every way!
Friday, December 10th: Hanukkah Celebration
Our Long Branch facility celebrated the last day of Hanukkah with some very intense dreidel games.
Above: Michelle & AJ
Friday, November 19th
Today we celebrated Mickey Mouse’s birthday at UI Rehab in Livingston. What a special day! Following Disney karaoke and Disney arts & crafts, Mickey Mouse made a guest appearance to take photos with all who were interested. He even joined us as we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Pedaiah.