“Pure joy and happiness.”
For most of us, there isn’t much that can ignite that feeling – and it doesn’t come often. But if you’ve ever visited The Arc of Southeast Mississippi, you know the buildings overflow with it - something that we all need to witness, according to Director Cindy Pennington.
Serving children and adults with disabilities, The Arc offers a variety of activities and programs tailored to supporting participants, as well as their families. One example is Rise & Shine, an adult day program designed to combine fun and physical activity with social interaction.
United Way of Southeast Mississippi partners with The Arc through Rise & Shine, which is in alignment with United Way’s goal to improve the physical and mental health of individuals in our community.
Beginning in 2013, the intent was to serve 10 adults for two days a week. With the overwhelming positive response and rising enrollment rate, the program has expanded to about 50 individuals and operates five days a week.
Pennington says it is important for everyone, with and without certain challenges, to have the chance to be healthy.
“I’m truly thrilled that we have a program of this magnitude in our area,” Pennington said. “More than that, I’m proud that they have the opportunity to cultivate friendships, have socialization and be included in everyday activities, all while developing a healthier lifestyle.”
Studies have documented that there are positive health benefits of regular participation in recreational and social activities. However, it has been observed that people with disabilities participate less and have lower levels of fitness. There are several contributing factors for low participation, one being the lack of available local programs.
As for our area, that life-changing support can be found close to home. In partnership with United Way SEMS, The Arc’s Rise & Shine program is providing adults with opportunities to generate healthier lifestyles and be successful in a medium where they are typically excluded, and the experience of “pure joy and happiness” right here in our community.
For more information about United Way of Southeast Mississippi, its health partners or to get involved, visit unitedwaysems.org.
Kerry Camille’s story...
Kerry Camille is a 21-year-old young lady with Down Syndrome. She attends multiple programs at The Arc, including Rise & Shine.
Kerry Davis, her mother, will tell you that Kerry Camille absolutely loves attending Rise & Shine.
During their family trip to New Orleans over spring break, Kerry Camille took her calendar and counted off the days until she could return to Rise and Shine. She also kept her Rise & Shine monthly calendar close by to monitor the upcoming events for March. Each day, Kerry Camille played the music from her Rise & Shine program and performed the songs for her family. After lunch, she would get her devotional book and told them it was time for devotion – she was putting her Rise & Shine routine in place exactly as they do each day at The Arc!
Kerry Camille struggles with obesity secondary to Down Syndrome. She has basically had the mindset “live to eat!”
Through the years, Kerry Camille often used eating as a way to satisfy other needs as opposed to actually eating when it was mealtime or when she was hungry. She would even get up in the night and “raid” the refrigerator.
However, Rise & Shine has motivated Kerry Camille to get on board with a healthier lifestyle. Likewise, her mom helps her stick to a very strict diet. Where she once chose the more sedentary lifestyle, now she is always moving through dance and games at Rise & Shine. Kerry Camille loves attending Anatomies and Kinetix, which are two additional partnerships with the Rise & Shine program helping to enhance health, wellness and exercise.
As a result, Kerry Camille was able to keep up on a three-mile walk in New Orleans. She has lost 20 pounds and multiple inches, and now “eats to live!”
Having such an engaging, loving, stimulating and healthy environment, Kerry Camille is more emotionally happy and satisfied. She doesn’t use food as a coping mechanism.
On the contrary, she and the Rise & Shine staff work together daily to enforce her diet plan. Kerry Camille is happy with who she has become with the help of Rise & Shine. She is very aware that she is a participant in a program for individuals with disabilities.
More importantly, she now realizes Rise & Shine is her happy place.
As she puts it, “I love my life, I love The Arc!”
Health does not always come from medicine. Most of the time it comes from peace of mind, peace in the heart, peace of the soul. It comes from laughter and love.