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 11 - April 2020
In This Issue:


Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Families, Friends and Supporters:

It is my sincere hope that this newsletter finds you healthy, safe, and surviving these very challenging times. There is no doubt that the coronavirus and society's efforts to combat it are having major impacts on all of our lives. Shelter-in-place orders and social distancing are keeping people safe, but have also ground our First Step and Via West programs to a halt, placing significant financial and emotional strain on our organization. We all find ourselves asking: when will things return to normal?
Other questions persist, such as: can we safely and effectively operate camp using social distancing practices? Will we be allowed to gather in large groups? Will there be effective testing in place by summer? Unfortunately, we don't have a crystal ball and have to make the best decisions we can with the information we have at this time. That is why this week, our Board of Directors made the very difficult decision to cancel this summer's camps at Via West. As sad and disappointing as this may be, the Board and Via's leadership agree that the health and safety of our participants and employees must be our absolute top priority. This was the ultimate basis of our decision.
I n the face of adversity, the best organizations adapt and find new ways to deliver value and services. At Via we are currently in the process of becoming an authorized vendor of in-home respite services. With fewer options for many of our families this summer, we hope to meet the increased demand for respite services. As well, this program will help us retain our talented staff of counselors as we prepare for a robust weekend respite season starting this fall. In addition to our unique farm-to-table curriculum, we will be adding both animal and environmental programming. So despite the absence of summer camp, we plan to stay very engaged with you.

While there are many new things on the horizon for Via, they do take time to ramp up. So, we are asking for your financial support to help us get through the crisis. Donations of any amount can make a real difference if everyone joins together. Please click here to make a charitable donation. Don't forget that the new stimulus package passed by congress allows for donations up to $300 to be 100% tax deductible, even if you don't itemize your taxes).  
I want to thank you for your patience and understanding during this period. There is an old saying that goes "the only way out is through." As we currently find ourselves in a very difficult situation, I know that working together, we will make it through to the other side as a stronger and more effective organization and service provider.


Matt Bell, Executive Director

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In Memory of Leslie Leger

We are extremely saddened to share the news of the passing of Leslie Leger. Leslie was truly the heart of Via Services and she dedicated so much of herself to helping us fulfill our mission to enrich the lives of children and adults with disabilities and special needs.

Leslie was with Via for over 19 years, working most recently as the Vice President of Administration. Everyone that had the pleasure of working with her over the years knows how wonderful of a person she was and how much of a loss this is to her family, her friends, and to Via.

Leslie's close friends have organized a fundraiser to help her husband Michael with the many expenses that have arisen with her sudden and unexpected passing. Please take a moment to click here and learn more.

25th Annual Via Ball

Thank you so much to everyone who attended the 25th Annual Via Ball on Saturday, February 29th, and to everyone that supported our event. You helped to make this the most successful Via Ball and fundraising event in our 75 year history as an organization. We could not be more grateful to you, our faithful supporters, families, friends, and partners.

Poker and Golf Tournaments
After careful consideration and based on current guidelines from the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health, Center for Disease Control, and World Health Organization, we have decided to postpone our 4th Annual Poker Tournament, as well as the 2020 Charity Golf Classic. We made this decision with the health and safety of our families, supporters, and staff as our highest priority. We plan to reschedule these events for a later time as the situation continues to unfold.


Via West and Altitude
Due to the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made the very difficult decision to cancel this summer's Via West and Altitude programs.  While this is sad and disappointing news for us all, our first priority is, and must always be, the health and safety of our camp participants, their loved ones, and our staff members.
Given the current state of the pandemic, and the high likelihood of having to conduct camps under strict social distancing practices, we do not believe it is in the best interest of all involved to conduct camp this summer. Until there are proven medical treatments or a vaccine, we feel that gathering large groups of campers - many of whom have underlying medical conditions or health challenges, attending sessions at Via West is just too great a risk.
Looking forward to what will hopefully be a safer and more normal health environment, we are planning a robust fall/winter/spring respite season. We expect the 2020-21 catalog to be available in early June, if not sooner. 

In the meantime, make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for fun and educational Via West and Altitude lesson plans that you can do from home!

First Step
Our First Step program has adapted so that we can continue to meet the needs of our clients during the current shelter-in-place order.

The First Step assessment team is providing Early Start eligibility assessments for children birth through 3 years of age using TheraPlatform to video conference the sessions. The families we work with have been very flexible and accommodating, which has allowed our team to complete these assessments as accurately as possible while we navigate through this new system of telepractice.

Our occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists are also using TheraPlatform to provide virtual therapy services in order to continue to provide intervention while everyone remains safe at home. Our staff has been very creative in developing new ways to telepractice therapy for our clients to enjoy. 

donor Featured Donor: The Dolinko Family

Our special guest speaker at the 25th Annual Via Ball was Adam Dolinko, Via Board Member and parent of former Via West participant Bryce Dolinko. Adam paid a moving tribute to his son and launched a capital campaign to renovate the art building on the Via West Campus - a place that held significant importance to Bryce, but that is in desperate need of improvements. 

All of the proceeds raised during the Via Ball Fund-A-Need joined previous donations from countless family and friends of the Dolinko Family to create the Bryce Dolinko Memorial Fund. The current creative arts building, affectionately known by many as the "Aartvark," will undergo a major renovation (including the addition of heating and air conditioning) and 1,000 square foot expansion. The new building will be the home of our arts and science programs. 

We are so thankful to the Dolinko Family for launching this new initiative for Via in memory of Bryce. He will always be an incredible part of the Via family.

If you would like to contribute to the Bryce Dolinko Memorial Fund to renovate the Aartvark, you may do so by clicking here.

Featured Employee: Fabiola Sanchez
Fabiola is the Administrative Assistant for Via Services. She supports the therapists, families, and other Via staff within our First Step clinic. She performs daily tasks related to client correspondence, referrals, and authorizations required for the program to be successful, and she is also a Spanish language interpreter.

Prior to her career at Via, Fabiola worked as a document specialist in Quality Control for 10 years at a machine shop specializing in aerospace and medical instruments.

Fabiola loves the wonderful support that Via provides for its families, but her favorite thing is her colleagues. She says that she has "met some of the most wonderful people here."

Jennifer Baird, First Step Director, admires Fabiola's flexibility and willingness to support Via in any way she can, especially during the current COVID-19 crisis. Jennifer says that Fabiola is "always positive and upbeat, and she is a loyal and hardworking team member at Via."

Outside of Via, Fabiola loves going on walks and road trips, but her favorite thing to do is curl up on the couch with her spouse and dogs to watch The Office. 


We are having a hard time getting through each day with trying to work from home and take care of our 2 children, 1 of whom has speech and language delays. Do you have any suggestions for how to make this "new normal" actually feel normal? - Anonymous
Answered by Tasneem Ali, Speech Language Pathologist, Via Services

Let's face it: raising kids is not easy. Being at home 24/7 is not easy. Working a full time job and being a parent is not easy. And here we are, trying to juggle all of this and trying to keep our families and loved ones safe. In the light of everything going around and adjusting to our "new normal," here are a few tips to help you with your children as we all navigate through these surreal times.
  1. Schedule: Make a schedule and stick to it. Our kids are used to schedules. While we cannot maintain their old schedule, we can make a new one. Ask your kids how they want to plan their afternoon when you plan their morning. This provides them with a sense of control and responsibility (and new vocabulary) and will also help you function as well with your sense of predictability to schedule your work/home day.
  2. Meal Prep: Have your children help you to prepare "meal kits." Recipe cards serve as a great visual aid here. Meal prep time will also allow your kids to be productively busy, and it will provide ample language opportunity.
  3. Chores: Teach the kids how to perform new chores. This is a great opportunity to have them follow directions. 
  4. Schedule A Down Time: Schedule a time where the kids are allowed to pick what they want to do (as long as it is a safe choice) that could include some extra screen time, book reading, coloring, self-play, etc. This also buys you some time to take a breather and enjoy a cup of tea in peace.
  5. Enjoy: Try and take a deep breath and enjoy this time at home with your family. Plan game nights, movie nights, star gaze in your backyard, make popcorn with extra butter.... we all know that this situation is temporary, let's make the most of it.
These tips are not an attempt to belittle the severity of the pandemic or the struggles that people are going through. The idea here is to stay positive and focus on what really matters, the health and happiness of your family. The way we react right now is what the way we are inevitably teaching our kids to respond in crisis. Let's all "shelter-in-a-happy-place" and get through this together, safe and sane.

We love the virtual therapy that our daughter has been able to take advantage of the last week, but what are some other things we can do to keep her engaged? - Katherine S.
Answered by Jennifer Birnbaum, Occupational Therapist, Via Services

With the shelter-in-place in effect due to COVID-19 we are all spending a lot more time at home. This can be a great opportunity to catch up on quality family time, but it can also be difficult, especially for our kids with sensory challenges. Below are some ideas of how to incorporate sensory activities throughout their day to help "feed" their sensory systems. Also included are some ideas for building obstacle courses at home.

Sensory Diet Activities
Proprioceptive Activities: can be obtained by lifting, pushing and pulling heavy objects as well as by engaging in activities that compress or distract the joints
  • Jump on a trampoline, jumping jacks, go marching, hop up and down, play hopscotch, vacuum, help wash windows or tables
  • Walk around the neighborhood with weighted backpack (e.g., can fill with books)
  • Animal walks (e.g., bear, crab, hop like a kangaroo, frog jump)
  • Roughhouse, play wrestle, leap frog, tug-of-war, crawl under couch cushions, jump on the bed and crash, bury under pillows or cushions, push someone on a swing
  • Chew gum, eat crunchy foods (e.g., hard pretzels)
  • Stir, roll/knead dough, scoop dough.
Vestibular Activities: can be obtained by spinning and swimming or any type of movement
  • Swing (spin or linear) - swivel chair, porch swing, rocking chair
  • Roll down a hill or across the floor
  • Bounce on therapy ball with feet on the ground; roll on a therapy ball on belly and roll forwards and backwards; roll a therapy ball on back while laying on the ground to "make a sandwich"
  • Play Structure: hang upside down, climb on it, hang from monkey bars
  • GoNoodle: GoNoodle is a website that encourages kids to get moving through dancing, meditating, or just plain jumping/running around
Tactile Activities: Tactile input is the sense of touch and includes texture, temperature, pressure, and more
  • Make a sensory bin - fill with rice/beans/dry noodles/sand and hide items for child to find
  • Make a sensory bag - fill a Ziploc with hair gel, glitter, pom-poms, and other small items that won't pierce the bag.
  • Play with shaving cream, finger paint, playdoh
Hearing, Vision, Smell:
  • Listen to calming music
  • Watch calming videos on YouTube
  • Use various scents for calming/alerting: lavender, vanilla, and rose are calming scents; peppermint and lemon are usually alerting
Obstacle Course Ideas
Below are things that you can use to make fun and engaging indoor obstacle courses:
  • Things to jump onto, over, or from (e.g. cushions, pillows, carpet square, toys,rope/yarn, stable furniture, piece of tape on floor).
  • Things to crawl under or through (e.g. sheet pulled between 2 chairs to crawl under,fabric tunnel).
  • Things to throw (e.g. bean bag; ball) at or into a target
  • Things to balance on (e.g. painter's tape on floor/carpet, piece of wood in shed, floor plank or seam between tiles on floor) or to balance (e.g. balance a ball on a spoon,small book or pillow on head)
If appropriate, get your kids involved in helping to plan the obstacles/stations for the course.

Example Obstacle Course
  1. Walk heel-to-toe along taped line
  2. Crawl across couch cushions
  3. Throw bean bags into bowl from 3 feet away
  4. Crawl under blanket in army crawl style
  5. Do five jumping jacks or jump in place
  6. Jump off couch onto pile of pillows
Let your imagination run free! There are so many possibilities!

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