Dail Frates, Executive Director
Everyone is included!
Zack's Place (ZP) is more than just a center for people with special needs; indeed, it is also a center for inclusion and collaboration. We are a community enrichment center for everyone; that is, participants, family members, volunteers, and community members. ZP loves to collaborate and we do it well, involving the population at large in every way we can. Our volunteers and community members join us many ways including: singing; exercising; cooking; reading; fieldtrips; partnering for events; sharing our facility, and attending our annual prom. In spreading our net of inclusion so wide, we connect or touch just about everyone.
Our ZP Special Olympics program is not only a collaboration with Special Olympics Vermont, but also with the instructors at Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, (VASS); other skiers, riders, visitors and staff at the Suicide 6 Ski Area, in Pomfret; and students from the Woodstock Union High School (WUHS). During the winter, ZP partners with WUHS students to practice for the snowshoe competition each week on the Woodstock Village Green. Our pairs work together on relays, running, endurance and understanding the equipment as they prepare for the competition in March. The Woodstock Inn and Resort generously hosts and outfits our skiing and riding participants each week at Suicide 6 where we join with the instructors from VASS and hone our skills toward competing in the Alpine Vermont Special Olympic events. For the last several years, this enrichment program has offered our participants not only a wonderful winter outdoor exercise experience, but also given them opportunities to bond with other athletes and form new friendships. In the summer we meet with volunteers from VASS and enjoy horseback riding, bicycling, canoeing, and kayaking. We also golf with volunteers at the Woodstock Country Club. In addition, this past year, we collaborated with our friends at Spark (a Lebanon based enrichment center) to hike the Rail Trail each week during the warmer weather.
Another wonderfully creative collaboration involves the students from WUHS who host a prom for our participants each spring. Not only do the students decorate the gym, they provide the music, light refreshments, and dress up and dance with us. Our participants love to dance and show off their intricate and often innovative dance steps. We attend art programs at ArtisTree in Pomfret; visit our friends at Norman Williams Library; attend weekly farm programs at Billings Farm; and visit the Woodstock History Center, the Vermont Institute of Nature and Science, and the Montshire Museum; all with volunteers and community members sharing these outings. We are also invited for visits to area homes for picnics; local farms to visit animals and help harvest, and inns where small social events are planned for us. Last spring, The Thompson Senior Center and ZP worked together to write and perform our very own musical," Tea for Tut". Other local organizations such as Pentangle, Global Campus, The HOP, Opera North, Northern Stage and Barnarts are all places we visit to expand our enjoyment of culture and theatrical offerings.
Volunteers are a constant at ZP. They include interns from Vermont Law School and Dartmouth College as well as many student volunteers from our local elementary, middle and high schools as well as the nearby Sharon Academy. Some of our local businesses such as Hypertherm and King Arthur Flour share their staff for volunteer programs as well. ZP also has an abundance of community members numbering over 2,000 who partake in and host our annual fundraisers.
It is obvious how very much a part of the Woodstock and surrounding communities ZP and its sixty participants have become; and how the fabric of our daily lives has been forever changed since ZP came to town.