August 16, 2022

3arabstar

healthy part of faith

A look inside world’s biggest Special Olympics center in Byron Twp.

BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Progress is being made on the renovation of the new Special Olympics Michigan site near Grand Rapids.

Two partner organizations, Disability Advocates of Kent County and Thresholds, dedicated newly renovated office spaces Thursday night at the former South Christian High School building in Byron Township.

A growing list of nonprofits are now calling the Special Olympics of Michigan Unified Sports and Inclusion Center home.

Disability Advocates of Kent County, which helps people break down barriers to live more independent lives, is already enjoying the new location, which was designed with accessibility being the top priority, according to Executive Director David Bulkowski. The group started working on its plans in May of 2019.

“The dots in front of the offices that’s a way finding piece with the glass, you know where the door is. Plus, each department has a different color so we’re able to guide folks by colors as well, each office has adjustable height desks.” Bulkowski said. “Every office has a dimmer switch so you can adjust the light to what your needs are.”

The organization also built a space to help people learn how to make life easier inside their home.

“The home accessibility center is a space for people with disabilities to come in and experiment for ways to make their homes more accessible for them and to try different pieces of equipment and to look at different design elements,” Bulkowski said.

Thresholds also dedicated its new office space. The group runs housing and other programs for people with developmental disabilities. Jacquie Johnson, the president and CEO, said the new location will help the organization better serve the community.

“We’re officially moving in on Tuesday so we’ve got a few more days. We’ve been in the building for about a year and a half in some temporary space,” Johnson said.

The campus has a total of nine organizations that will be housed inside and more are expected to be added. The project hopes to improve collaboration and improve services for families.

“They may know what their loved ones need but they don’t know how to get that service or that support and so having us all under one roof there’s going to be more knowledge in the community about what is available,” Johnson said.

Special Olympics Michigan purchased the building, which will be the biggest Special Olympics site in the world, according to Jennifer VanSkiver. She is on the team making the idea a reality.

“The campus is completely and totally unique. There is nothing like it anywhere.” VanSkiver said. “All eyes are on Michigan at this moment watching to see what this learning lab with this incubator, this hub is becoming. It really is the model for the future.”

The sports facilities are already being used but will go through major upgrades with a goal of hosting some international competitions in addition to expanding athletic opportunities for local athletes. 

“This is a place where our loved ones can come, where they’re not being judged, where they’re not being diagnosed. There’s nothing but welcoming. Here is about what you can do,” VanSkiver said.