Evan Braff enjoys unexpectedly running into Adult Social Club members at Fairfax County restaurants. Their presence means these adults with disabilities took the initiative to plan a night out -- without his help.
That's precisely the type of social skill that Braff and other staffers in Fairfax County's Therapeutic Recreation Services work to teach members of the group.
"Our goal is to have them independently doing things [like planning social outings] with minimal support," said Braff, a division supervisor at the Department of Community and Recreation Services. Being a part of the club helps them develop interests and self-confidence, he said.
About three times a month, members arrange to attend concerts, go on boat rides and perform service activities like cleaning up hiking trails. Members propose the ideas, put them to a vote, then call to get information, reserve a place or make other arrangements.
Club member Cory Wedworth, 29, of Chantilly said the club recently toured the Reston police station, where participants saw the big reels of tape that record emergency calls. "Isn't that neat?" said Wedworth, who has seizure-related disabilities and works in the Inova Fairfax Hospital cafeteria.
Jennifer Smith, 33, of Fairfax, who recently stepped down as president of a club chapter in Fairfax, just went fishing with fellow group members at a lake near Fredericksburg. Although Smith, who has had cerebral palsy since childhood, didn't catch anything -- only one person did -- she still had fun; group members were happy, she said, just to spend time together and walk on the beach.
Something Wedworth and Smith agree on: Getting away from the TV and out of the house is a huge plus.
Membership in the club is open to Fairfax County residents 18 and older with medically documented disabilities. Admission is subject to screening by Fairfax County. The annual fee for the club is $20; additional event costs vary.
The club, which has about 300 members, is seeking volunteers to accompany members on outings. Unlike full-time staff, who are certified therapeutic recreation specialists, volunteers needn't have a particular professional background.
To learn more about Fairfax County activities or about volunteering, call 703-324-5532. For information about other adult social clubs in the Washington area, contact your local department of recreation.
-- Samantha Ganey