Balloons decorate a pavilion tucked away behind trees. Under the pavilion are eight long picnic tables, each filled to capacity with family and friends enjoying a delicious lunch. With the gentle, babbling creek on one side of the pavilion and chipmunks jumping through the greens on the other, it’s easy to forget that an entire amusement park is just a few steps away.
In June, Caring Communities co-hosted our third annual summer client event with AIDS Resource (Williamsport, PA) at Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg, PA. Caring Communities’ Jacob Kelley, Community and Client Liaison, helped spearhead the event. Kelley teamed up with AIDS Resource staff to provide a day of entertainment and relaxation to their clients living with HIV.
Organizing the event was a team effort for Caring Communities staff. The Deputy Director, Clinical Director, and Operations and Grants Director all chipped in to help with the cooking, ensuring that clients had a smorgasbord of hotdogs, sloppy joes, grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, and mac and cheese to choose from. Kelley, along with other case management staff, mailed the invitations, arranged transportation for clients to the event, developed support-group type activities, and assisted with set up and clean up. Clients were also encouraged to bring a dish if they preferred, and the results did not disappoint. Cookies and cakes went quickly, sometimes even with playful arguments over who got the last piece.
Kelley estimates that around 180 people of all ages attended the event in total. He says these events are important for both clients and staff. While clients get a day to themselves with food and new friendships awaiting them, case managers get a better picture of their clients.
“We get to see the clients more fully,” Kelley said. “We get to see them with their family and friends. They’re more than just a name on a file.”
And clients couldn’t agree more. One client commented, “it’s nice to meet the staff in a more relaxed environment.” This client noted that being able to sit and chat with his case manager is a nice change from constantly needing to discuss appointments and forms.
For some clients, this was their first time attending such an event, and many seemed glad they did. One client mentioned that not only was it his first client event, it was also his first time to Knoebels. He was excited to check out the park, though said he’d probably hang back on the more intense rides like roller coasters.
Many clients discussed taking care of other family members and stated that events like this were a welcome break from the stress that comes with being a caregiver. One client said that just being out in the fresh air was a welcome change.
Others basked in the overall joy of a day at Knoebels with loved ones. When asked how one client was enjoying the event so far, she threw her arms up in joy and chirped, “I love it!” The client mentioned how excited she was to spend a day with family, grandkids and all, and to be able to take a break and get a little closer to nature at the same time.
Another client commented on how outings like this reminded him to perk up and stay positive. “You can’t just walk around sad,” he said, “you gotta make the joy!”
Overall clients were able to enjoy a beautiful sunny day with loved ones and the gracious support of staff from Caring Communities and AIDS Resource.
If you or someone you know is living with HIV or AIDS and may need support, please feel free to reach out and connect with our amazing Case Management department to find out how we can help.