What Is S.O.A.R.?
Special Opportunities Available in Recreation (S.O.A.R.) is a community therapeutic recreation program serving individuals unable to successfully participate in traditional recreation programs. Leisure, social and developmental skills are emphasized to promote the highest level of recreation participation possible.
S.O.A.R. is jointly sponsored by the City of Bloomington and Town of Normal through their Parks & Recreation Departments.
Who is Eligible?
Most individuals with special needs are eligible to participate in S.O.A.R. activities. Persons from youth to older adults who are in special education classes, nursing homes, group homes, or have leisure needs not met by traditional recreation programs are eligible.
This includes individuals with developmental, physical or learning disabilities; sensory, genetic or behavior disorders; autism or emotional difficulties.
The S.O.A.R. program exists to maintain and enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities through comprehensive, specialized recreation programs, activities and special events.
Philosophy of S.O.A.R.
It is the philosophy of S.O.A.R. that all individuals are entitled to recreation services. Whether an individual has a disability or not, services should be provided to assist everyone to learn new leisure skills, improve their independent recreational abilities, and experience the enjoyment, learning and development that recreation provides.
S.O.A.R. offers the opportunity for individuals with disabilities to learn and develop skills through continued involvement in specialized recreation programs. Social, leisure and developmental skills are emphasized to promote the highest level of recreation participation possible.
Goals of S.O.A.R.
The ultimate goal of S.O.A.R. is to provide therapeutic recreation services for individuals with disabilities who are unable to successfully participate in general recreation programs. With these specialized services, participants will benefit through skill development, leisure education and socialization.
General Program Goals:
- To develop and increase participant’s motor and social skills.
- To provide participants with specialized sports training and the opportunity for sports competition through Special Olympics.
- To teach leisure skills that will enable participants to independently select and participate in recreational programs.
- To provide programs and activities that will facilitate participant’s self-confidence, self-esteem and stimulate social development.
- To provide versatile programs in order to meet the needs of a variety of participants.
- To provide leisure education opportunities that will enable participants to constructively utilize their free time.
S.O.A.R. employs two (2) full time staff, one (1) part time staff and approximately 25 seasonal staff on a yearly basis. All staff have diverse backgrounds and educational training in working with individuals with disabilities. S.O.A.R. currently staffs most programs with a one (1) staff to every four (4) participants. If a participant needs more assistance or won’t be able to participate within this structure, please let staff know and exceptions may be able to be arranged.
S.O.A.R. offers internships and fieldwork experience opportunities to college students majoring in Therapeutic Recreation, Recreation Administration or related fields. Internships are offered year round. Students interested in completing their internship/fieldwork experience should have some experience working with individuals with disabilities, whether paid or volunteer. Students will be expected to plan, implement and evaluate several types of programs, including Cultural Arts, Special Interest Programs, Sports/Fitness and Special Events. If you would like more information about internship opportunities with S.O.A.R., contact Nicole Kohler, CTRS by email at email@example.com or by phone at (309) 434-2260.
Transportation is available for some programs on a first-come, first-served basis for many Bloomington and Normal residents who have no other way to attend events. Many individuals have no way to attend programs other than to use this service so transportation is provided primarily to those who have no access to public transportation, car pools or parents/staff/guardians to provide this assistance. A fee of $3 per round trip is charged.
The S.O.A.R. program offers three program sessions each year: Winter-Spring, Summer, and Fall. winter - spring programs run February through May, summer, June through August, and fall, September - January. In general, registration for programs is taken as follows: winter-spring session in January, summer in May, fall in August.
- A registration form with releases and a signature by the adult participant, parent or guardian must be completed. In the fall, an annual form is also required. Participants must be registered prior to attending any S.O.A.R. activities. Anyone who attends an event without registering won’t be allowed to participate.
- Payment can be made with cash, check, money order or most major credit cards.
- Telephone and web site registration isn't accepted.
- All programs have a registration deadline. This date is typically one full week before all weekly programs begin and one week before each special event is held. This is also pending program availability.
- Complete the registration process that follows to register.
- Return the seasonal registration form and payment to the Bloomington Parks & Recreation office. Registration may be done at the registration meeting, in person, via fax or in person. The seasonal registration form is found within the forms section of the web site and within the pdf of the seasonal brochure . An annual form is also required each fall and this form may be found in the same location.
- A registration meeting is held each session to help participants with program selection/placement, address questions and complete actual registration. This meeting is held one (1) day before any other type of registration is taken at Lincoln Leisure Center from 3 - 6 pm. Please call for this date or look at the current brochure.
- Registration may done in person from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, at the Bloomington Parks & Recreation office. The office is located in the Government Center, 115 E. Washington Street in Bloomington. Parking is available across the street on the corner of East and Washington. Several parking spots are located in front of the building on Washington Street. If you wish to talk with a S.O.A.R. staff member, it’s suggested that you call prior to coming to check on staff availability.
- Registration may be done by faxing all information to 309-434-2483. Payment must then be made by using an American Express, Discover, MasterCard or VISA.
- Registration can be mailed to: S.O.A.R. Registration, PO Box 3157, Bloomington, IL 61702.
- All registrants will be given a receipt of payment. This will be given in person to those at the registration meeting or who register in person. Those individuals who mail or fax in registration will be mailed a receipt.
- Registration is complete once the above process has been done. You will only be contacted if there are problems with your particular registration.
Full payment of program fees should be completed at registration. However, payment plans can be arranged for those individuals who need to spread their payment out over several months. Payment in full must be received prior to registering for the next program session. Payment plans must be requested prior to each session’s registration deadline.
Partial financial assistance is available for those who need it in order to pay program registration fees. Financial assistance isn't available for special events, programs, etc. where S.O.A.R. incurs a direct fee such as a ticket cost, meal fee, contractual cost, etc. Fee assistance must be requested prior to each session’s registration deadline.
- A program will be cancelled if the minimum number of participants needed is not met. S.O.A.R. staff will notify registrants by mail if this occurs. The registrant will be given a credit or refunded the money.
- A specific program may be cancelled due to extremely poor weather. The participant should call the hotline number after 3:00 pm
(in general) at 309-434-2386 if the weather is questionable. If a program session or special event is cancelled, every attempt will be made to reschedule this activity.
S.O.A.R. staff are available to give a presentation to your group or organization. Contact staff at 309-434-2260 to arrange an informative presentation to your school or class, service group, churches, etc.