MERIDIAN, Idaho — Programs that help Treasure Valley residents with cognitive and physical differences thrive just got a big boost, with the help of a $2 million donation from the Blue Cross of Idaho.
On Wednesday, the Tomlinson South Meridian YMCA was filled with smiling faces when Blue Cross leaders presented the nonprofit organization with an oversized check for $2 million.
The Y plans to build a second THRIVE Center with the extra funding as part of its downtown Boise expansion project. THRIVE stands for “Together Helping Realize Inclusive Victories Every day.”
Through the THRIVE Center, neurodiverse Treasure Valley residents participate in free-play activities, educational courses, adaptive sporting games and can receive personal training assistance.
“Services like this are so important for families that have children who are neurodiverse and are on the autism spectrum or have another divers-ability,” TVYMCA President/C.E.O. David Duro said. “We’re just so excited and proud to be able to expand our service.”
Duro said the need for more neurodiverse services is growing. According to the State Department of Education, 10% of students in the West Ada School District qualify for special education services. The CDC estimates that one in 44 children have autism spectrum disorder – or approximately 9,000 Idaho kids.
“When we opened (THRIVE) here at the Tomlinson South Meridian Y, we were overwhelmed with the demand for the service,” Duro said. “By going downtown, there’s a whole new community we’ll be able to embrace.”
The South Meridian THRIVE opened in late 2019 with the help of a $1 million donation from Blue Cross. With a new center on the horizon, Blue Cross’ Senior Vice President of Finance/C.F.O. Dave Ward said the company was thrilled to assist financially again.
“We hope it also engenders empathy in the community, to encourage and allow people to interact with people who might be a little different from they are,” Ward said. “For me, that’s a great aspect of the program.”
Inside the Meridian center are low-sensory rooms with swings, calming cabanas, and an octopus wall made of varying materials. Next door is a high-sensory zone equipped with obstacle courses, a crash pad and room to run around.
The center serves all ages, from tiny tots to grown adults. As Y members get older, THRIVE Director Andrea Parker said there are life skills courses that help them prepare for adulthood, like managing their finances, finding employment opportunities, and cooking lessons.
Brady Miran, an employee at the YMCA, regularly participates in center programs. He even learned how to make stir-fry and ramen dishes in the THRIVE cooking class. Miran said he always sees children leave the YMCA’s THRIVE programs with a “big smile.”
‘When I was walking past, making my rounds...I saw so many kids in here just having fun. And I was like, Blue Cross would be so happy,” he said. “Now everybody’s loving the Y. I think that adding another THRIVE center to downtown is the way to go.”
The new downtown YMCA facility is part of a four-block redevelopment project coordinated with the City of Boise’s redevelopment agency — Capital City Development Corp. CCDC announced the project in the fall of 2020, first reported by BoiseDev.
According to CCDC documents, the project will include mixed-income housing, expanded high-quality and affordable child care, educational, retail, and community gathering space, and health and wellness services.