Search Inc’s Search for Adventure (SFA) is a program that connects people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to the world beyond their own communities through vacation experiences. Since 2004, SFA has taken a total of 135 trips under the guidance of Search Inc’s Community Inclusion Coordinator, Jennifer Gledhill. This year alone SFA travelled to Florida for spring baseball and Disney World, Wisconsin’s Camp Dewan, New York, Minnesota, St. Louis and Santa Barbara, California. We sat down with Jennifer and one of the recent travelers, Abby S., to learn more.
Q: What is SFA and why is it important for our individuals?
Jennifer: I think when we ponder services for individuals with intellectual disabilities from an administrative standpoint, we tend to focus on the bottom rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs: physiological (food, shelter, clothing) and safety (personal health, safety, employment). Since our funding is overwhelmingly contingent on the state budget, it’s understandable why programming conversations tend to revolve mostly around finances: Springfield asks us to balance Herculean efforts on tightrope budgets.
The physiological and security pieces of the “full life” puzzle are self-evident, but they are only the starting point for a life of dignity and self-realization. At Search Inc, we believe that many of the missing (and unfunded) pieces are those quiet things in the background that most people take for granted – things like the occasional great escape.
Who among us doesn’t have a memory bank filled with family getaways – good or bad? Or solo road trips? Or standing shoulder to shoulder with our besties, taking in vistas that left us breathless? If these small luxuries aren’t also offered to the folks we serve, aren’t we inadvertently creating a culture of exclusion?
At the top of Maslow’s pyramid is self-actualization: the desire to become the most that one can be. Sometimes we have to step outside of our everyday roles to view ourselves more clearly. Sometimes we need to immerse ourselves in the unknown to reach beyond familiarity to possibility.
And while not explicitly named in Maslow’s pyramid of personal needs, frankly, sometimes we just need to get the hell out of Dodge. Enter Search for Adventure: 135 trips and counting.
Abby S: My recent trip with Search for Adventure was to Rancho Oso Dude Ranch in Santa Barbara, California. We took Lyft all the way to Midway Airport and then took a 4 hour flight westward. I was lucky that I had the window seat!
Q: How many individuals went on this trip?
Abby S: There were 9 of us who went on this trip: 3 Search staff members and 6 Search individuals who live in different Search houses.
Q: What did you need to do to be prepared for your trip?
Abby S: I had to organize my state ID, money, and personal items to put in my purse and organize my clothes to put in my carry-on bag.
Q: What were the accommodations like?
Abby S: The accommodations were nice. There was a main lodge where you could hang out. We slept in heated cabins. There were 3 of us in each cabin: 2 individuals and 1 staff. The ranch didn’t have restaurants, so we had to go out to eat most of the time. But we bought breakfast items for one morning and ate outside of our cabins. It was nice. It was kind of like camping.
The ranch offered some fun activities, like horseback riding, pickleball, basketball, and shopping at the General Store.
Q: What other activities did you participate in?
At the ranch I played some basketball and pickleball. I also went shopping in Solvang, a Danish village, and did some sightseeing which was fascinating and beautiful. We met up with people from Toad&Co and had a Friendsgiving dinner with them. It was a lot of fun!
Q: What skills do you have that helped you prepare for and help you enjoy the trip?
Abby S: I had to use coping skills in order to prepare myself for the trip because I was feeling a little tense about this trip. I had to take deep breaths so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed. I had to make sure I was organized and had my state ID and had enough money to buy some souvenirs. I asked my father to help me pack up my things for the trip, so I would take the right type of clothing. I used my organizational skills to keep my things together and took responsibility for them, so I did not lose anything on the trip.
Abby S: In my own opinion, I think taking these trips is important to any individuals who live in a CILA. It’s a chance to see and do different things, visit different communities and states, and broaden their minds.
Q: What did you enjoy most about Search for Adventure?
Abby S: My favorite thing about Search for Adventure was going someplace I have never been before. I loved seeing how people live in different places and seeing and experiencing different lifestyles.