“Having stepping stones like your program to be able to be supported and to reach potential at a very young age allowed me to be as successful as possible.” – Jon Krieger
In 1982, Therapy & Fun was started as a way to help children with developmental delays keep up with their therapy goals during the summer months. Forty years later, many of the former participants and volunteers of Therapy & Fun are now adults. I sat down with Jon Krieger and Alex Hunter, former clients of Therapy & Fun, as well as Cristin Heinbeck, a former volunteer. I wanted to see where they are now and how the program made an impact on their lives.
Jon Krieger participated in Therapy & Fun in the late 80s and early 90s when he was a young child. Jon lives with cerebral palsy and attended the program to keep up with therapy during the summer. “Putting those two words together is kind of like an oxymoron when you’re a kid,” said Jon about Therapy & Fun. He explained that the program helped him come to terms with the fact that therapy would be a lifelong thing for him.
“Therapy & Fun was a good foundation to set me up for all the success that I’ve gotten for myself as well.” Jon would go on to graduate from GVSU with a double major in Psychology and Nonprofit Administration. “Psychology allowed me to open my mind to be more accepting of others and understand where they’re coming from and their abilities.” Jon currently works as a contractor for the US government under the AbilityOne program, helping connect people with disabilities with employment opportunities. He also works part time for a local nonprofit called King’s Table as the development coordinator.“I love the ability to be able to work and to be able to support myself … to do as close to the ‘American Dream’ that I possibly can as being a disabled person myself … Even though the stuff may be hard and the therapies don’t always seem worth it … it’s all worth it in the end.”
Alex Hunter (pictured in the top photo) participated in Therapy & Fun for 4 years between the ages of 5 and 8. After falling into a swimming pool and suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury at age 4, he had to “relearn everything.” He said, “My goals were to learn how to do the normal stuff again like the basic things … to be a functional human being, to play and gross motor and my speech.” Alex enjoyed his time at Therapy & Fun so much that he went on to volunteer for the program until he was 17. Now in his 20s, Alex works as a dishwasher at Amway Grand Plaza and continues to support Comprehensive Therapy Center. “I loved what they did for me and now I’m talking to [CTC] … about being on their board!”
The impact of Therapy & Fun doesn’t stop at the clients we serve. Cristin Heinbeck started volunteering for the program back in 1994 when she was about 12 years old. What started out as just something to do with friends during the summer would turn into an experience that would impact her into adulthood. “It was really rewarding to be a part of a child’s progress,” she said. Because she was around the same age as the clients, she enjoyed getting to be their friend, recognizing that “some of the kids in the program had been bullied in some circumstances. I do remember one little boy that was initially really shy, but he got to know me and some of the other volunteers and it got to be where he didn’t want to go home.” She also appreciated the creativity of the therapists when helping clients with their individual goals.
One of the most impactful things that Cristin learned from volunteering at Therapy & Fun is how important working with a good team can be. “It just really impressed upon me how much of a difference it can make to individual people when a whole team is working so seamlessly together.” Today, Cristin lives in Bogota, Colombia where she works as the American Citizens Services Chief at the U.S. Embassy.
A common thread I found while chatting with Jon, Alex and Cristin was that their favorite thing about Therapy & Fun overall was the people and the compassion and joy they brought to the program. When asked what she’d say to a parent considering enrolling their child into the program, Cristin said, “I can say with certainty that their child would be spending their mornings with a team of people that genuinely care about them.”
Registration for Therapy & Fun 2022 is open! Click here for more information and to enroll.