The centerpiece of LifeTown, the Village is a simulated, town square with streets, traffic lights, a park, sidewalks and shops. At 11,000 square feet, this is the largest area in LifeTown, and central to the mission of giving each individual the tools he or she needs to live up to their individual potential.
FC program participants and their families, teens, community groups, schools, volunteers, interns, therapists, LifeTown staff
Students visiting the Village will be able to practice classroom lessons on budgeting, time management, problem-solving, safety skills and communication; all while gaining real-life experiences in a supportive environment. Village stores will also be used as a training center for employment opportunities.
The Village will include a movie theater, copy center, hobby shop, grocery store, clothing store, salon, laundromat, home-goods store and office center. The Village will also feature an ice-cream stand, terrace, garden and other amenities found in real towns.
BOOKSTORE & CAFE The bookstore and coffee shop will have entrances from both the Village and LifeTown’s main lobby, welcoming people from the community for their daily cup of coffee, to browse for the latest bestseller or conduct a short meeting. More than just a place to grab a cup of Joe or reading material, this shop will provide much-needed job training for young adults in the community in a safe and warm environment.
BANK:The first stop on a visit to Life Village will be to the bank. Each student will be given a fixed set of funds to make their way around the Village. The goal is to teach budgeting skills and encourage positive money management. Once participants use up their allotted funds, they will be able to earn more money by doing a job in one of the stores.
MOVIE THEATER: Visitors to the Village who want to take in a show will learn important lessons on budgeting their time and money in order to do so. Will they have enough time to see the show and make it to a job interview? If they buy a ticket, can they pay for their popcorn? Decisions such as these will be critical for individuals participating in the Village’s life-skills training. Additionally, the 50-seat theater will include a stage for performances, puppet shows and more, some of which will be put on by youngsters taking classes at the Dance and Music Studio in LifeTown’s Youth Center.
PET SHOP:Grooming, feeding and caring for animals will reinforce the importance of similar skills for individuals and provide another job-training opportunity for visitors to the Village. Spending time with animals has a soothing effect for people with special needs. Additionally, those with communication or socialization issues come alive when playing with a pet making this store a natural addition to the Village square.
COPY CENTER: With an entrance from the Village and from LifeTown’s main offices, the Copy Center will be abuzz with activity providing Village users with hands-on, job-skills acquisitions. By training at the Village Copy Center, participants will be able to show future employers they are ready to start working. Given that young adults with certain special needs often excel at jobs that include repetitive tasks, the Copy Center can help them hone those skills, thereby allowing them to be gainfully and successfully employed.
MEDICAL CENTER: For individuals affected by tactile sensory disorders and other special needs, going to the dentist or doctor can be a traumatic experience. Participants will learn how to set up an appointment and make sure they arrive at their allotted time. Students will practice sitting in a dental chair and getting their blood pressure taken, which will acclimate them to visiting medical professionals.
CROSSWALKS: Safely navigating a city’s streets, obeying traffic signals and learning who has the right of way are critical skills that will be reinforced for participants in Village program – as will the consequences for not following directions. Jaywalk because you’re running late? You’ll get a ticket and a pay a fine. Bikers in the way? Time to learn to share the road and make safety a priority.
HOBBY SHOP: Visitors to the Village can stop in and learn a new craft that can then be done on their own at home. Because of the social isolation and amount of time individuals with special needs spend alone, having a creative, fun and entertaining outlet like knitting, scrapbooking, etc., will allow them to spend their “alone time” engaged in a productive and creative endeavor.
Additional shops will include a bookstore, grocery store, clothing store, salon, laundromat, home-goods store, and office center. The Village will also feature an ice-cream stand, terrace, garden and other amenities found in real towns.
Home to a zero-entry pool, giant water table and water-activity room, the aquatic center will be filled with the sounds of splashing and fun.
Individuals with special needs, therapists, FC participants and their families
The Aquatic Center will allow people with special needs to experience the thrill of interacting with water, while allowing for freedom of movement and plenty of fun.
Therapeutic play in the Aquatic Center promotes vital skills, including better muscle tone, coordination, breath control (beneficial for verbalization and general health) and independence, all of which help to build self-esteem and confidence.
WATER-ACTIVITY ROOM: The water table and interactive water play area will keep kids entertained and moving. All the displays and features will include therapeutic components that will be controlled as they push, spin, pull and twirl. The rain cloud and other activities in the water room will teach them important life-skills in an interactive setting. It will present children who have tactile sensory concerns with a fun and interactive center for tactile engagement and desensitization therapy. The setting will allow for children of all abilities to interact and enjoy the activities together.
ZERO-ENTRY POOL: The LifeTown zero-entry pool, which will allow for wheelchair-bound individuals to be rolled right into the water, will be used for afterschool activities, therapy programs and Friendship Circle’s social programs like summer/winter camp and weekend classes.
For children with hypersensitivity issues and mobility concerns, a pool can provide a calm and relaxing way to feel free, thanks to the buoyancy of the water. With a constant temperature of 90 degrees, this pool is geared for people who, because of various challenges, cannot enjoy traditional swimming facilities. While relatively shallow by most standards – the pool will only be 4 ½ feet at its deepest – it is deep enough to allow for therapy and water exercises. It will have some interactive experiences, including an endless pool feature, water spouts and a water umbrella.
The pool will also be used by local special-education schools for therapy programs and by the Caldwell Therapy Center and other therapists for 1-on-1 therapy sessions.
Designed to mimic a natural park and beach setting, this area will encompass the specialized activity rooms, indoor and outdoor playgrounds and more.
FC program participants and their families, schools, interns, therapists, community groups, LifeTown staff, therapists, school groups, after-school programs and more
Each area was designed in consultation with experts in their field and with the greatest of care and detail to ensure that the individuals of all ages who utilize the space will get an experience unlike any other. Special emphasis was placed on the design to make it feel vibrant, warm and welcoming.
A host of afterschool programs will be run out of this area, many of which will be open to the community – including art classes and baking workshops. Evening and weekend respite programs will also utilize these specialty rooms to add meaningful content to time spent at LifeTown.
The therapeutic play center will be designed to resemble a park, complete with trees, benches and a southern glass wall letting in an abundance of natural light. It will include a playground structure, interchangeable therapy and play swings, a climbing wall, cheese pit and much more. The accessible space is designed so all children can have the freedom to enjoy a day in the park.
This multisensory environment provides a calming space where participants can engage their senses and find comfort in various sights, sounds or aromas. From bubble machines to colorful light displays, each item in the Snoezelen Room is designed to stimulate the senses and provide a calming respite from the busy world.
The kitchen will be utilized by people of all ages for a variety of programs from holiday-themed cooking sessions to life-skills food prep and kitchen-safety classes. The kitchen will also provide training and experience to help young adults learn specific, focused tasks for jobs in commercial kitchens or restaurants.
Art is becoming recognized as an important way for people with special needs to express themselves. Utilizing a variety of mediums – from simple coloring to more complex projects – the art room will encourage each individual to show off his/her skills and aesthetic sense. This space will allow for messy art, expressive art and art therapy.
This is the primary area in LifeTown for recreational activities and sports leagues, including basketball, volleyball and tennis. The gym will be equipped with sound-absorbent walls and ceiling enabling individuals with sensory overload to participate in sports.
FC program participants and their families, teens, community groups, schools, volunteers, interns, therapists, LifeTown staff
Sports will be integrated into nearly every program at LifeTown. The gym with sound-dampening walls will allow participants to fulfill their dreams of participating in team sports as part of a league. Teen volunteers will also utilize this space, not just for games amongst themselves, but to transmit their love of sports to their special friends.
At 3,500 square feet, this great room can hold up to 400 people and be subdivided into various configurations, with up to 5 rooms. Classes, lectures, after-school programming and more will be held this area.
FC program participants and their families, teens, community groups, volunteers, interns, therapists, LifeTown staff
The multipurpose room will serve as the core for Friendship Circle programs, adult-day programs, respite care and after-school programming. By subdividing the main space into several smaller rooms, LifeTown will be able to host and accommodate a number of different classes, activities and groups simultaneously, and allow for customizable activities based on a child’s interest.
Each room will also have a subspecialty to help maximize the space in LifeTown. One of the rooms will serve as the technology hub for LifeTown programming, including computer-based therapy programs and a computer lessons. The room will also transform into the “Magic Carpet” sensory learning center. Participants can chose from dozens of games, which are then projected onto the floor and controlled by the users’ movements.
Yoga and martial arts classes will be offered to help aid physical and mental development, and motor, cognitive, sensory and social skills, across various age ranges. Additionally, family programming will be offered here, including holiday events, fun days and Saturday Night Out. The full large room will be able to accommodate community-wide lectures and other special events.
The Lounge will serve as the center of programming for teen volunteers and college students who intern at LifeTown. In addition to being a recreational meeting spot, educational programs will be offered in the lounge.
Teen volunteers, college interns, adult volunteers
The lounge will be the hub of activity for our volunteers and interns. Equipped with a homework corner, recreational equipment, video game consoles, snack bar and more, this space provides teens with a positive destination in which to hang out with their peers.
The lounge will give teens a place where they can meet peers who are committed to helping others and want to make a difference. Engaging, hands-on programming will be offered in this fun and relaxing setting.
The life lessons gained in LifeTown carry far beyond the program walls when the teens head out into the world. Hundreds of former volunteers have gone on to work as therapists, medical professionals, special-education teachers or to pursue careers in related job fields. To increase this amazing trend, local universities will offer our volunteers a number of for-credit, college-level classes on special-needs related topics.
During the day, the lounge will be used as the base for adult volunteers and college interns to gather before being assigned to their jobs and a place where they can go during a break.
This room offers a living room setting for parents to work, relax and network.
Parents and grandparents of LifeTown participants
Dedicated as a welcoming space for parents and grandparents, the lounge is a quiet spot where they can unwind, catch up on their reading, surf the Internet or enjoy a cup of coffee while their child participates in LifeTown and FC activities. The Parents Lounge will encourage interaction with each other families in an organic setting – sharing tips, advice and support. The bonds that the parents form during these informal discussions can lead to life-changing relationships and help the parents cope with the unique challenges they face. Ongoing seminars and classes of interest to parents will be offered here on a regular basis.
This three-lane alley will feature customizable aids—from wheelchair ramps to bumpers—allowing everyone to experience the thrill of bowling.
FC and LifeTown program participants and their families, teens, community groups, schools, volunteers, interns, therapists
Bowling provides a much-needed, and accessible, sports outlet for anyone regardless of a person’s unique abilities. Not only does it provide an instantaneous sense of accomplishment and gratification, it provides therapeutic benefits in building coordination and self-esteem. This room will be used for various programs, including FC sports league events and after-school programs. FC parents will also be able to enjoy a game or two while their child is attending an FC program.
Many bowling alleys are not fully accessible and the noise and bustle of the room creates a sensory overload for many participants. The accessible, acoustical engineered setting in LifeTown’s bowling alley will maximize the experience and provide therapeutic benefits.
Located just off the entrance to LifeTown, this 2,500 square foot space will divide into 3 rooms or open into one larger space. It will house LifeTown’s Early Childhood Center, Dance and Music Studio, and Birthday Center.
LifeTown and FC participants, parents, community members, school groups, interns, therapists
The Music and Dance Studio will allow individuals with special needs to express themselves through music, dance and other forms of the creative arts.
The Birthday Center will offer top-of-the-line birthday experience. Families booking a party at LifeTown will be able to choose a party theme based on their child’s interest and the many offerings and specialty rooms in LifeTown.
The Early Childhood Center will host a variety of Mommy & Me classes and a supplemental program for youngsters with special needs who attend a half-day therapy program.
The main offices will serve as more than just the nerve-center for all of the Friendship Circle and LifeTown programs; it will also provide job training and job opportunities for participants.
FC and LifeTown staff, program participants, volunteers and young adults with special needs
Adjacent to Life Village, a number of rooms in the office area will have dual entrances so they can be accessed from both the main offices and the Village. These spaces will serve as a training center for young adults to learn needed job skills.
In addition, there will be opportunities to learn office skills (answering phones, sorting mail and greeting guests, etc.) as well as custodial jobs (sorting the recycling, cleaning up after a meeting, etc.). The goal is to provide young adults with real-world experiences to help them learn what future employers will expect from them and what actions demonstrate proper office decorum and responsibility.
The LifeTown experience will not be limited to the different rooms and activity areas as the walls will make walking through LifeTown an experience itself.
WAYFINDINGS: Navigating through LifeTown will be a unique experience with colorful stripes leading participants from the map to a specific room. Once at the room, the stripes will “come to life” with a decorative design that indicates which activities can be found in that space. This unique concept is being designed to make navigation an intuitive experience for people with special needs.
DONOR WALL: The unique design of the donor wall will match the overall theme of the way-findings. A recessed, cubby space behind each individual plaque will provide a spot for a personalized memory book that will tell the story of the person the donor is memorializing or honoring with their contribution.
LIVING MEMORIAL: A memorial to the 1.2 million children lost during the Holocaust will be inspired by the Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The interactive display will educate visitors to LifeTown about the bravery, devotion and faith displayed during the Holocaust. Visitors will then be able to “pledge” to do a mitzvah in memory of a child. A mitzvah, good deed, is compared to a flame and the goal is to relight a candle for each child lost.
ALPHABET WALL: This vibrant display will teach the alphabet in many “languages,” including braille, ASL, English, Hebrew and Mandarin. The idea is to demonstrate how we all communicate the same message but in different forms and modes of communication.
ART: A universal message of hope will be portrayed in a collage created with the help of Friendship Circle participants. Each person will create a tile, which, when combined together, will create a full and complete picture. There will also be an interchangeable art display where new art created by FC and LifeTown participants will be displayed.
SENSORY WALL: More than just a block of color, these walls are designed with interactive sensory wall panels will provide therapeutic fun and engage the senses with color, texture and design. There’ll be no calls to take your hands off the walls in this space as the sensory walls will be all about exploration, engagement and learning fun.