St. Pete program helps those with disabilities lead more independent lives

A St. Petersburg program is helping people with disabilities lead a more independent life. Their initiative is changing lives.

Students in the St. Petersburg Therapeutic Recreation program made this past Christmas a little merrier for some local residents. They were handing out free holiday food baskets. 

"We wanted to really teach our participants how to give back as well," Alyssa Elsner, supervisor of Therapeutic Recreation for the City of St. Pete Parks and Rec Department. "So this is all about a night of giving to teach them the act of charity and charitable giving." 

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It's a part of their St. Pete Sampler initiative, which consists of seven different field trips, activities and safe, inclusive environments all around the city, according to Elsner. The field trips provide fun activities and independence for people with physical or mental disabilities of all ages. 

"We want to teach them to be able to socialize with their peers, like-minded and not like-minded, so that we can create a community of inclusion," Elsner said. 

The lessons they're teaching others are priceless. 

"If I've learned anything from these youth and adults, it's grace and love. And to be able to really love other people. Sometimes I think we forget that. And I can tell you our adults never really do," Elsner said. 

For more information on the program, visit