HOBART — Sitting among the tie-dye T-shirts-wearing preschoolers, Rita Hale looked over the dry dusting of instant snow powder. “Just add water!” the Insta-Snow label read.
“We’re going to have 2 ounces of water per scoop, and we used three scoops — so how many? One-two, three-four, five-six,” Hale said, counting scoop by scoop.
Four-year-old Jazzy let the white flakes fall between her fingers.
“Is it cold? Is it rough? Is it soft?” Hale asked.
On the last day of sensory camp at the Center for Possibilities in Hobart, the center’s 2- through 6-year-olds painted, decorated with stickers and more.
The activities rounded out two weeks exploring the wonders of slime and Oobleck — exercises designed to help children to exercise fine motor skills and learn through play.
“I love working with children,” said Hale, a 22-year veteran of the preschool and prekindergarten childcare center. “I love working with them. I love seeing their progress.”
Progress is a cornerstone of the Center for Possibilities’ early education curriculum. For decades, the center has prided itself on its education of students of all abilities.
For five hours a day, the center’s youngest students work in small groups at a 7-to-2 student-to-adult ratio learning their numbers, ABCs and even sign language.
The center prioritizes its focus on students with disabilities — serving children with speech delays, cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome and more — while also taking children of typical ability levels.
Occupational and speech therapists make weekly morning visits to the center’s preschool and pre-K classes — something Stephanie Balthis said her 6-year-old daughter has taken advantage of during the four years she’s attended the Center for Possibilities.
She said the center helped her daughter, who was born with a genetic disorder affecting her eating and mobility, meet goals such as learning to take small bites of food while she was on a feeding tube.
“They were able to feed her — one of the things that I was worried about and sending her to a regular day care,” Balthis said. “I have nothing but good things to say about this place.”
The center’s daily morning snacks, lunches, therapy services and other activities are primarily funded by community support. The nonprofit charges only $10 per day for each student and relies heavily on grant support and organizational fundraisers, especially following the prosecution of the center’s former board president, John F. Kmetz, who pleaded guilty in March 2017 to stealing more than $100,000 from the center and another local nonprofit.
“He opened a checking account under our VIN number unbeknownst to anyone,” said Shelley Boender, who says she was the one who first discovered irregularities in board accounts. “It looked liked we didn’t have controls in place and that is not the case. There’s no way the auditors knew.”
Now, the center is looking to move forward with a new chapter — launching a fundraising drive to raise $50,000 to replace its outdoor playground’s mulch surface with a more accessible rubber surfacing.
“We have some kids here that are here today that really have mobility issues,” said Cherish Edwards, the center’s executive director. “Pushing a walker through the mulch is hard, so we want that rubber surfacing.”
Despite the negative attention received from the actions of their former board president, Edwards said community support has remained strong.
The Center for Possibilities will be the beneficiary of this year’s Adams Radio Group Charity Golf Outing this September at the Duck Creek Golf Course in Hobart. The center also is taking donations through the crowdfunding website GoFundMe and Amazon. Links to both can be found on the Center for Possibilities website at centerforpossibilities.org.
“We’ve met a lot of people in our area,” Hale said. “We see them get married, we see them die, we see them when they have problems come to talk to us. They get to trust us and it’s really rewarding.”