Wednesday, February 24, 2021
This is the logo for covid recovery iowa

The University of Iowa Therapeutic Recreation (TR) Program was presented a unique opportunity to assist COVID Recovery Iowa in providing virtual services to those effected by COVID-19. COVID Recovery Iowa, a FEMA-funded program established by the State of Iowa, was developed to assist Iowans with counseling sessions and social activities to combat symptoms such as isolation, withdrawal, lack of social opportunities and boredom. The TR Program was invited to collaborate with COVID Recovery Iowa in September 2020. TR faculty and students provide weekly virtual activities to promote social inclusion and connectedness as well as offering opportunities to participate in recreational activities safely. TR programming includes a variety of weekly sessions within the themes of Mindfulness Mondays, Togetherness Tuesdays and Friendship Fridays. Students plan and lead activities around emotional expression, therapeutic art, physical activity, leisure skills, and socialization.

Through this partnership, TR students have had the opportunity to build and strengthen their TR leadership skill set. Beyond this, they have found purpose and community connection through this partnership. Two TR students, Kelly McClusky and Gabby Cole, highlight their roles and experience as lead facilitators for COVID Recovery Iowa.

Kelly McClusky, TR Major: This fall, I hosted Friendship Fridays for COVID Recovery Iowa. Each Friday, I would host a different virtual activity for people with disabilities across the state of Iowa to join in via Zoom. Some examples of activities we did were Pictionary, Charades, origami, and a scavenger hunt, just to name a few. We had a lot of fun each Friday night, and I greatly enjoyed the experience. One main thing that I gained from this experience was learning how to navigate and host an online event. With that, I also learned how to adapt my activities to make sure my participants were engaged and having fun. With online events, not all participants would have some of the materials needed for the activities or the right space needed, but I have learned how to adapt my activities so that everyone feels included in the activity we were doing. I learned to always have plans A, B, C, and even D for back up. Friendship Fridays were a great opportunity for people across the state of Iowa to gather with friends and meet new people during the pandemic. It was a fun experience and I appreciate the freedom I had to host any activity I thought my participants would like.

Gabby Cole, TR Major: I volunteered for COVID Recovery Iowa’s Inclusion for All social events. I came up with an idea with guidance from professors and COVID Recovery Iowa’s team for a weekly program called Mindfulness Mondays. The goal of this specific program was to provide social opportunities and mindfulness techniques for people with disabilities all over Iowa. I had a great experience working on this project. I met amazing people and developed and refined skills. One area that I specifically benefited from was my interactions with volunteers. I gathered volunteers and organized their participation in Mindfulness Mondays. This was a great experience to develop leadership and management skills. I had an opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary team to create a program from the ground up. I benefited from the opportunity to put my therapeutic recreation skills into play to create and facilitate virtual opportunities for people. The program is still being run, and I value seeing the impact these programs have had on individuals in the community.

The COVID Recovery Iowa partnership has continued into 2021, and students in the TR program’s Recreation Leadership and Programming course will facilitate all of the virtual sessions during the month of March and the first part of April.  We look forward to making continued connections in 2021 and focusing on the silver linings the virtual world has to offer.