By Emily Harrington
The biggest misconception about Larkin’s Place at the Stephens Family YMCA is it’s a literal-physical space. It’s not actually. Larkin’s Place is more of a concept, a philosophy—a goal, “actively seeking to bring together typically and atypically developing participants in an effort to cross social barriers and enact positive personal and societal change,” according to the YMCA website.
This all-inclusive concept comes to life within the sprawling walls of the membership-based YMCA at 2501 Fields South Dr. in Champaign. Thanks to one mother’s passion and dream, Larkin’s Place has become just what it was intended to be just a few years ago—a multigenerational, all-embracing place for everyone to exercise, learn, play and interact. Thanks to this passionate mother, Amy Armstrong, families affected by disability have a comfortable environment to take their loved ones for recreation and fun that’s safe.
There are many features that make the YMCA an exceptional resource, but with the added adaptations everyone can reap the benefits thanks to the concept behind Larkin’s Place. If anyone in your family has mobility issues they can use the accessible waterslide to splash into the pool just like anyone else. If your aging mother needs help easing her arthritis, she can use the warm-water therapy pool. If your child with Down syndrome wants to participate in the Yoga Kids classes, they can thanks to instructors who have been taught accessibility methods. If your son has autism and needs additional supervision, Child Watch has trained staff to provide extra attention while you work out.
Everything and everyone has been adapted or can be adapted so no one is left out. The facility even features muted colors, dimmer lights and wider hallways to help not only those with disabilities be more comfortable, but help everyone’s comfort.
Occupational therapist, Larkin’s Place Program Director and Chambana Mom to Know, Stacie Young, creates and orchestrates additional programming to further the Larkin’s Place model.
- Music Therapy
- Exercise Classes
- Occupational Therapy
- Social Groups
- Handwriting Groups
- Infant Massage
- Play Groups
The amount of programming is practically endless and features something for everyone, including parent support.
“It’s a really great feeling to know you are not alone,” Young said.
While it’s not a physical space, it’s so much more. With the Larkin’s Place philosophy in mind, the YMCA has been designed and features modified so no one will be left out. The efforts of the staff and Larkin’s Place creators make this concept and place a community resource Champaign-Urbana residents are fortunate to have.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie that left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job to be a 24/7 mom to a dreamy son. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Oh, and let’s not forget her other son, a degenerate canine named Heppenheimer.