UCA’s Bears for Care program available to help families in need

by Taylor Treviso
Division of Outreach and Community Engagement

The University of Central Arkansas Bears for CARE program will host free respite care events and provide services for families of children with special health needs.

The first event is from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at Compass Academy in Conway. Families with children who have special health needs between ages 4-18 and siblings ages 4-12 are invited to this event.

Additional events are planned from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, and Saturday, April 6, both at Compass Academy. All events are free, but space is limited and advance registration is required.

The Bears for CARE program is dedicated to providing Central Arkansas families who care for children with special health care needs with access to free respite care services and events. Students from the departments of Occupational Therapy and Elementary, Literacy, and Special Education, as well as the Service-Learning program, created Bears for CARE.

Upcoming events will allow children with special health care needs and their siblings to participate in a fun, safe environment full of games and activities while their caregivers experience leisure time for themselves. UCA students provide the curriculum and activities for the respite care events.

This program is a resource for families to utilize at no cost. Bears for CARE strives to enhance the quality of life for families and children with special health care needs, while also providing students with professional and personal development experience.

“This program has been really successful, and we’ve had five events so far, either on campus or hosted by one of our community partners,” said Dr. Lesley Graybeal, director of UCA’s Service-Learning program. “There’s a clear need for respite opportunities for families of children with special needs, and we are so glad to be able to offer this opportunity for students to gain professional experience while filling an important need in our community.