The Evolution of Kishwaukee Special Recreation Association (KSRA)

Our service to the community began in 1977 with the first offering of Camp Maple Leaf at Hopkins Park. CML was developed to provide a safe and fun environment for the students in Special Education within the DeKalb County Special Education Association. This program continues to this day and is approaching its 50th year of Fun! In order to create an organization that is community based to serve individuals with disabilities, at least two Park District’s had to adopt the model of a Special Recreation Association through the Park District Code. DeKalb and Sycamore Park District’s came together to create DeKalb-Sycamore Association of Special Recreation (DSASR) in 1979. This newly created organization offered year-round recreational programs for people with special needs. Camp Maple Leaf continued to be the largest program offered. Fast forward a number of years to 2011 when Genoa Township Park District choose to join as a member district, thus changing the name to better represent the communities served. Thus, Kishwaukee Special Recreation Association (KSRA) was officially adopted as a name for the agency moving forward. During the 2015 year, not only did KSRA grow in staff size, by adding a second full time staff, the agency was awarded the “Program of the Year” plaque from the Illinois Therapeutic Recreation Association (ILTRA). In 2016, the addition of two new member districts joined KSRA: Sandwich Park District and Flagg-Rochelle Park District, thus expanding the service area of KSRA.

Throughout the years of service to DeKalb County DSASR/KSRA continued to ebb and flow with the needs of the families served. The one consistent program was Camp Maple Leaf. The program was created for students in the Special Education departments within the area, however there was also a time that CML was an inclusive program open to individuals without disabilities. KSRA continues to offer year-round recreational opportunities that include skill-based programs like cooking and sensory; social based programs like attending theaters, sport programs like bowling and bocce which also includes Special Olympic competitions. One of the newer program offerings that began in October 2022 was the A.R.I.S.E. program; Adults Recreating Inclusively for Self-Enrichment. This is an adult day program, created for young adults who have graduated High School and want to stay active and involved with their peers and community. A.R.I.S.E is a year-round program that includes fitness, art, mindfulness, community outings, volunteering, cooking and so much more. The individuals in the A.R.I.S.E. program help plan their days to improve independence and self-advocacy.

KSRA’s reach of service into the community has begun to encompass Veterans of all eras. The programs developed to give back to those that served the country have just begun. The first event held was a Pinning Ceremony for those Veteran’s that served in during World War2, Korea, and Vietnam. Many of the programs will be open to all Veterans from all eras, to provide a safe space and understanding of the needs which the Veterans have in civilian life. The division of service for KSRA will continue to develop as the programs and events grow.


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