By Catherine Mulhern, The Catholic Sun

The clanking of billiard balls fills the air, mingling with the lyrics of “We Will Rock You” that have many heads in the room bobbing. Word searches are being penciled in, arts and crafts are in the works, and friends catch up over a cup of coffee as the smell of fresh, gooey brownies delights the senses.

FSL members enjoying an activity after morning coffee (Billy Hardiman | The Catholic Sun)

This is an ordinary morning at ReCreación – FSL’s day program for the elderly and other vulnerable adults, which is anything but ordinary.

It’s a place where “members,” an honorary title for those who receive care here, are accompanied in a safe and engaging environment, all while being celebrated in their dignity.

Your gift to the Charity and Development Appeal enhances the lives of vulnerable adults like Christopher through intentional, engaging, and dignified care.

Established in 1974, FSL has served the greater Phoenix area for the past five decades through many impactful programs, including nutritious meal services, affordable housing options, health and wellness programs, senior centers, and support for caregivers. And while all of these meet the needs of individuals and families with incredible generosity, none stand out quite like ReCreación.

“Our members are the ones who make this program so special,” said Valerie Blair, Director of ReCreación’s west valley location.

“We serve adults who live with a physical, cognitive, or developmental disability, or a medical condition, and each one brings a unique joy to our ReCreación community. It’s such an honor to journey with our members and their caretakers, providing care that meets their specific needs along the way.”

With three locations spanning the west valley, central Phoenix, and the east valley, ReCreación cares for more than 100 members daily. In this case, the term “cares for” could be replaced with myriad of phrases including “personally accompanies,” “delights in,” and “brings joy to.”

It only takes moments after walking through ReCreación’s sliding doors to experience this impactful joy.

Mornings begin with coffee and snacks, daily announcements, and light stretching to music that has everyone in the room clapping or tapping their feet to the rhythm. Members then have the freedom to take part in one of the many planned activities – such as a baking class, a Bible study, and enjoyable games that strengthen mobility – or they can spend their day in a variety of other ways including playing board games, planting in the garden, or playing the piano.

FSL member, Theo, spends time in the garden (Billy Hardiman | The Catholic Sun)

In addition to these engaging activities, ReCreación provides state-of-the art medical care in the forms of physical therapy, medication management, and wellness assessments. Transportation to and from their three locations is also available, and a meal planned by a licensed nutritionist is served daily.

“We try to create a ‘home away from home,’” continued Blair. “Our hope is that each member finds incredible joy and purpose here, while at the same time, their caregiver knows they are being taken care of.”

Christopher Roa, a 51-year-old who suffered a traumatic brain injury in his early twenties, is one of many members who has personally experienced such “joy and purpose.” Chris, who needs constant supervision, attends ReCreación three days a week.

“My favorite thing about coming here is the camaraderie,” said Chris, as he smiled and pointed to his friend across the room. Chris’ buddy got a huge grin on his face and waved back.

Mimi Roa, Chris’ older sister and caregiver, has also seen this joy and purpose unfold in her brother’s life.

Roa, a ReCreación member, attends the program three days a week (Billy Hardiman | The Catholic Sun)

“Chris is the youngest of nine siblings,” Mimi said, adding that she is the only sister among her eight brothers. “When he got into the accident, we were devastated. It changed everything for him. Chris struggled for many years, and then we found FSL.

“It’s a place where he has made friends and has a sense of belonging. He’s safe here, he looks forward to attending, and it has really impacted his whole life.”

Mimi shared that Chris especially loves the opportunity to paint on canvas when he attends ReCreación. She proudly displays his art throughout their home. For the first time in years, Chris can say once again, “I’ve created something.”

This is especially touching as the term “ReCreación” means “create again” in English.

The Charity and Development Appeal (CDA) – a fund that supports more than 70 impactful ministries throughout the Diocese of Phoenix – allows ReCreación to maintain professional medical personnel on staff, run engaging programs, and continue fostering a safe and engaging environment where vulnerable adults can thrive.

In sum, the CDA is the reason this special care facility is often filled with the smell of brownies and is always abounding with extraordinary care and dignity.

“ReCreación has brought immense joy and peace to our whole family,” said Mimi. “On behalf of all eight of us siblings, thank you for making this gift possible for Chris and so many others. You truly are changing lives.”