Via Services is a private, independent non-profit that has been dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities and special needs achieve greater self-sufficiency and lead richer lives since 1945.
The Via Vanguard
Issue 8 - August 2019
In This Issue:


Letter from the Interim Executive Director

Families, Friends, and Supporters,

We are half way through our summer camps and everyone is having so much fun participating in so many new activities, along with some of the favorites from the past. We have a very enthusiastic team of counselors who are enjoying the campers as much as the campers are enjoying them!  If you have not been up to Via West recently, stop by and see our camp in action!
We published our Fall, Winter, and Spring Camp schedule for Via West and Altitude, and we heard from families that they wanted more respite sessions. So, we took out our calendars and added 5 new respite weekends, added a day to a November weekend, and more!  More information about these wonderful changes can be found below in our Program Updates section.
Scott Webb, our VW Director, and I have plans for strategies to assure that we have sufficient numbers of counselors and other staff to fill our camp slots for our Fall-Winter sessions and eliminate the wait lists we've had this summer. In this economy, it has been challenging to attract and retain camp staff, but we have innovative ideas that we will implement.
In other news, First Step is expanding its services due to unprecedented demand. We are fortunate to be able to attract the therapists we need so that these families and children can get the services they need. We are also excited that we have been able to hire a bilingual Speech & Language Pathologist to provide therapy for our families whose preferred language is Spanish.
It's an exciting time at Via as we plan for these services for our families while we also plan for our 25th anniversary Via Ball on February 29, 2020 to celebrate 75 years of Via Services!

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay connected with us all year round.

Jan Cohen, Interim Executive Director


NEW Via West & Altitude Programs
You spoke, and we listened! We are so excited to announce that we have added FIVE additional sessions to our Fall, Winter, and Spring season!  That means more opportunities for you to enjoy a weekend off while your campers have the time of their lives on Via West Campus! 

We are also testing a pilot program to include all ages 12+, and we extended the length of the November Altitude session. We were able to make all of these new accommodations fit within our jam-packed calendar by adjusting the dates on some of the previously scheduled sessions. Click the link below to read through the newly updated registration brochure for all of the details!

First Step Receives $5k Grant!
First Step has received a $5,000 grant from Trust Funds, Inc. to provide scholarships for screenings, evaluations, and therapy and educational services for under served Diocese students.

The pilot program collaboration began in August of 2018 and it provides on-site therapeutic and educational services at three different sites within the Diocese of San Jose schools.

We are currently serving over 50 students in kindergarten through 8th grade. We are hoping that with the aid of this grant from Trust Funds, Inc. that we will be able to expand this program to additional elementary schools within the Diocese. Many of these students do not typically have access to these services, and they rely on scholarships to support this program.

Field Trips for Special Needs
Summer is here, and many of you are planning your favorite trips to the beach, Disney World, Europe. For the majority of our Via West and Altitude participants, their trip to camp is the only one they will get. Via West IS their Disney World, Altitude IS their Europe, and the field trips we take during those sessions are integral to the feelings of freedom and independence that a vacation can bring.

As you prepare to take your own vacations, we ask that you consider making a donation to help our campers take theirs. Your support will enable us to make the most out of our field trips so that we can provide the best experience for the kids and adults that come to us for Via West and Altitude.

7th Annual Fall Festival

Join us on Saturday, October 12, 2019 for the 7th Annual Fall Festival at Via West Campus. Admission is free and tickets will be available to purchase to use towards your favorite games, activities, food, beer, and wine!

This is one of our biggest events of the year, and we need your help to make it successful. We rely on sponsorships to defray the costs of the Fall Festival so that we can make this event free for all to attend. Every little bit helps, so please click the link below to learn more about how you can sponsor an item for this wonderful event.


Featured Employee: Scott Webb

We are pleased to welcome Scott Webb as the new Director of Via West and Altitude. He joins Via with over 33 years of experience directing camps and nonprofit organizations. As the Director, he oversees all programs for Via West and Altitude, and he provides leadership, supervision, and management.

Scott received his B.A. in Recreation Administration from Northwest Nazarene University.  He also earned a Senior Director certificate and Executive Director degree from the YMCA, where he spent 17 years.

Scott has spent the last 12 years focused on providing quality programs for people with special needs. Most recently, he served as the director for Camp Harmon where he was able to work with many of our current Via West participants. He has extensive experience improving camp programs and facilities to make them the best camping experience possible.

Jan Cohen, Interim Executive Director, is very excited about the camp experience that Scott brings with him to Via West. "We look forward to some new programs that will assist us in obtaining the staff we need, so that anyone who wants to come to camp can do so," Jan says regarding Scott. "We also look forward to having animal assisted therapy with goats and rabbits and more as soon as we can renovate our barn. Our team and our campers are already enjoying all that Scott brings to us."

Outside of Via, Scott loves raising goats, making goat's milk, and creating artisan goat cheese.

Featured Employee: Jennifer Baird

We are also very excited to welcome Jennifer Baird as the new Director of First Step. She originally worked in the First Step program from 2003-2007 and returned in 2017 as a speech-language pathologist before assuming her current role of Director. As the Director, Jennifer oversees our clinics' speech and occupational therapy programs, as well as Via's Early Start assessment team.

Jennifer received her B.A. and M.A. in communicative disorders at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. She has received training in PROMPT, PECS Level I, Talk Tools courses, and Hanen and Social Thinking courses.

Jennifer has 15 years of experience working with children and their families with a variety of communication needs in private clinics, preschools, early intervention programs, school district contracts, and outpatient programs. She has also earned 2 consecutive ASHA Awards for Continuing Education.

Jennifer has been a part of the First Step program for a long time, and Jan Cohen, Interim Executive Director, is thrilled that Jennifer is now the Director. "She brings her experience, expertise, and working relationships with all of our First Step Team," says Jan. "Jennifer's expertise in the field of early childhood and speech-language pathology provides the First Step team with just the right type of leadership needed for a seamless transition and continued success."

In her spare time, Jennifer loves to exercise, bake, and watch her 3 children play sports.


Do you have any advice on how to prepare our special needs daughter for the transition from elementary to middle school? We are worried about how all of the changes will affect her. - Bonnie W. 
Answered by Sandy Keefe, MSN, RN, Manager of Research and Grants, Via Services

As a special needs parent, you've guided, coached, advocated and supported your child from early intervention to preschool and on to elementary school. There have been amazing successes along the way, plenty of challenges and finally your daughter is moving on up to middle school years.

Middle school seems to have a lot more rules, transportation needs to be arranged all over again, and worst of all, there's a pile of homework! Deadlines for online homework, worksheets and reports seemingly appear out of nowhere just at a time when your pre-teen struggles to organize a backpack, handle deadlines and balance schoolwork with outdoor play, sports, enrichment activities, family time and rest.

For students remaining in a Special Day Class, the teacher and paraprofessionals provide structure while at the same time encouraging independence and growth. Others in general education with resource services have less support, depending upon the student's IEP or 504 plan. My grandson Logan, for example, just started middle school in a year-round district with two co-taught classes (two teachers with 66% general ed/33% special ed), one study skills class with a special ed teacher (his elective) and three general education classes.

No matter what the model or setting, there are some important ways we as parents can ease the transition and get them on the right path:
  • Attend all relevant parent meetings, including orientations, open houses, principal chats and guidance counselor sessions with a copy of your child's IEP/504 in hand. Take photos of key points from slide presentations or ask if the information will be on the school's website for later review.
  • Take advantage of all online resources offered by the school (e.g. Infinite Campus, Campus CafĂ©, Jupiter Ed) to receive the latest information on your student's homework assignments, grades, and messages to/from teachers.
  • If your student has online homework on one or more commercial websites, make sure you sign up as a parent on the site so you can review and monitor progress.
  • Access the school's website and parent blogs regularly to learn about upcoming events, report cards, standardized testing and other important events.
  • Use a visual time management system on paper or a device that meets your student's needs. For my older daughter with Down syndrome, this is a written checklist of chores and activities that need to be completed when she arrives home. For Logan, a tablet-based planning system on the school-furnished iPad seems best.
Perhaps most importantly, step back and take a deep breath. It's easy to get immersed in the drama and stresses of middle school, but focusing on the bigger picture can help both you and your student.

My twins just attended their first session at Via West, and I was blown away by the beauty and the atmosphere of the campus. I organize retreats for our church, and I wanted to know if it's possible for us to host our next one at camp. - Evie P.
Answered by Leslie Davis, VP of Advancement and Sales, Via Services

We would love to have your group on our campus. Via West supplements our mission based programming by letting other non-profits and educational institutions utilize our facility when we are not in session. Your church group definitely qualifies!  

We have options for day use as well as overnight use. Our packages can include total meal preparation or just the use of our kitchen. We are competitively priced and our customer service is second to none. We personally assist you with everything - meal and meeting set up, AV-Media needs, special bedding accommodations, etc. Please feel free to look at our website for availability and other great perks we have to offer or just contact me, Leslie Davis at or 408-243-7861 x 232 and I can give you more information.

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