Balloons were flying across the room, followed by screams of delight as they were volleyed back in return.

At quieter tables, participants and cadet volunteers from the Air Force Academy colored and made birthday-party crafts.

For some it was a time for quiet visits. Many wore brightly colored party tiaras.

It was Gathering Time, a special respite evening created by The Resource Exchange and celebrating its first birthday. For now it is once a month but expanding to twice thanks to a new grant.

The inclusive, sensory program offers an evening out for parents caring for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “Parents need a break,” said Sarah Nolan, TRE respite program specialist.

While caregivers are away for the evening, the young adults ages 18-35 have their own special time with person-centered activities. Trained community volunteers participate and staff is familiar with the needs of the participants.

The Jan. 27 program included a full birthday dinner with a variety of pasta and sauces, a large green salad with a tempting variety of things to add, and garlic bread. Volunteers and staff helped fill plates with the personal choices, and cut food as needed. Then everyone ate together.

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For dessert, a whole variety of yummy birthday cakes and several versions of the birthday song.

What’s being added to the program, said director Nolan, will be cooking classes.

Hungry folks fed, it was time for bingo before the parents arrived to take their young people home.

TRE respite programs had started years ago with “Break Time” for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and offering parents and caregivers some time for themselves.

“Gathering Time” was developed for the older participants.

Said TRE’s Julie White, “I just can’t say enough about our respite programs.”

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