Aaron's Acres Marks 20th Anniversary

On Feb. 15, Aaron's Acres kicked off a year of special events to mark its 20th anniversary with a concert in downtown Lancaster sponsored by Music For Everyone. To celebrate the milestone anniversary, Aaron's Acres has planned a special fundraising event for each month. "We tried to have a spread of different events, with some that would be focused on our families and others on our donors. The idea is to get all of these groups together," explained Alexander Gawn, communications coordinator. "We want to thank the central Pennsylvania community for helping us reach this milestone."

Gawn recounted that Aaron's Acres began as "a tiny organization" running out of people's homes. "The idea was that we saw a gap in recreation programs for children of different abilities," noted Gawn. Today, Aaron's Acres is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that serves children and young adults with developmental disabilities through year-round, therapeutically based recreation and socialization programs, with offices at 1861 Charter Lane, Suite 114, Lancaster.

Aaron's Acres' summer camp takes place annually from June to August at the Manheim Community Pool, 504 E. Adele Ave., Manheim. The camp has grown from serving 11 campers in 1998 to more than 200 campers in recent years, Gawn said. Youths participate in games, crafts, and activities such as swimming, music therapy, horseback riding, and more with the support of professional staff.

This summer, Aaron's Acres will offer transportation for participants for the first time as a way to bridge the geographical gap for participants. In recent years, the camp consolidated from three locations in Berks, Dauphin, and Lancaster counties to one main site in Manheim. "We are excited to be able to assist families by offering transportation in Berks and Dauphin counties," said program director Elaine Burnett. Buses will run from Denver and Swatara. Each bus will be staffed with two professionally trained staff members to assist participants during the commute. Registration is now open for Aaron's Acres summer camp at http://www.aaronsacres.org/programs/registration/, where applications for counselors are also available.

The next Aaron's Acres anniversary event will be a sensory-friendly fundraiser on Wednesday, March 21, at Sky Zone Trampoline Park, 1701 Hempstead Road #102, Lancaster. Individuals and families are invited to jump from 5 to 7 p.m. Interested individuals may print a form available at http://www.aaronsacres.org to bring along to show so that a portion of the entry fee will benefit the work of Aaron's Acres.

Additional events will include the Hershey 10K on Saturday, April 7, when Aaron's Acres will be one of three nonprofits that runners may direct their contributions toward, as well as a sensory-sensitive movie showing at Penn Cinema, 541 Airport Road, Lititz, at 10 a.m. on April 7. A complete schedule of events is listed online.

Aside from the yearlong event series, Aaron's Acres has set a goal of raising $20,000 online to support its year-round programs through a #20for20 campaign. Gawn said that Aaron's Acres supporters are encouraged to share stories about the organization on social media and use the hashtag #20for20. The total amount will be revealed at the Aaron's Acres 20th anniversary gala set for Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Emerald Foundation, 2120 Oregon Pike, Lancaster.

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