By Collin Breaux | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @collin_breaux
Goin Native Therapeutic Gardens works with developmentally disabled adults by having them volunteer at the Los Rios Park.
The program was founded 10 years ago by Marianne Taylor. Santa Claus and San Juan Capistrano City Councilmember Brian Maryott stopped by Thursday, Dec. 5, to meet the volunteers, hand out recognition awards and help them plant poppy seeds.
“We’ve been taking care of the parks and helping them therapeutically with learning about the gardens but also learning about life skills,” Taylor said. “When you work in a group, you have to learn how to follow directions and follow tasks and learn how to begin and start and stop.”
Volunteers work in the gardens Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The adults get to exercise and take in some fresh air while they learn skills that can translate to vocational opportunities, Taylor said.
“Everyone has an opportunity to try different tasks, whether it’s pruning, raking, sweeping,” Taylor said. “It’s exciting to see how, each year, the student behaviors and skill levels improves. A lot of the people we see are on the autism spectrum and oftentimes, autism, there’s non-verbals. Many of our students have found their voices in the garden and that’s a huge developmental feat.”
Santa has been coming out for a few years now, with students becoming familiar with St. Nick and therefore not afraid of him. Maryott was asked to join because it was important for city leaders to see what Goin’ Native does, Taylor said.