LARC Residents Explore Mall On A Quest
Think of a cross between “The Amazing Race” and a scavenger hunt at a kids’ birthday party, with multi-person teams participating in a series of stunts and challenges to accumulate points — all of it chronicled in a video and photo slideshow in which all teams break down the day’s action.
That sums up cityHUNT, which is billed out as a team-building activity for businesses, groups of friends and families — and recently provided a Saturday afternoon adventure at Westfield Valencia Town Center that residents of LARC Ranch won’t soon forget.
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“Everybody had a blast,” said Steve Bratzel, activities director for the Saugus-based LARC Ranch, which provides residential and day programs for developmentally disabled adults. “For our guys, an event like this gets them to do things that socially they might not normally do.”
You know. Like doing a muscle-man pose-down in front of a Gold’s Gym sign. Or having their picture taken while pretending to take candy from a baby. Or performing a conga line on video. Or engaging in a group hug with a stranger.
Or, finding someone named Bob and asking him to pose for a picture.
“One of our residents is named Bob,” Bratzel said. “So Bob became everybody’s best friend because he was the one with the name.”
The teams participating in the March 3 cityHUNT event at the mall included four teams from LARC Ranch, one from Bridges to Ability (a local nonprofit organization serving individuals with disabilities), and one group of friends and family who weren’t affiliated with the two nonprofits, but wanted to get in on the fun.
“The conga line video turned out great,” Bratzel said.
Performing a conga line was just one of dozens of tasks the teams could take on to earn points in the cityHUNT contest as they journeyed on foot from the fountain outside Salt Creek Grille, down Town Center Drive and through the mall, finishing with a celebration dinner — and laughter-inducing video of the challenges being performed — at Red Robin.
Even as they prepared to undertake the challenges — and as they were given three minutes to come up with a team name and animal — the LARC residents got into the spirit of friendly competition.
“I’m going to do it, boy,” said Ruth Forehand, 50, a member of the Tinkerbell Teddy Bears. “I want to make my finals. I’m ready!”
Bratzel — whose team, the Gold Seekers, was crowned the winner at the post-hunt dinner — said an event like cityHUNT (cityhunt.org) would be great for any groups looking for a fun team-building exercise, and it was especially beneficial for LARC’s residents as it helped build esteem and social skills.
“One of our residents who’s normally pretty quiet went on the radio at the KHTS kiosk in the mall,” Bratzel said. “She really came out of her shell.”
He added that many mall merchants got into the fun spirit of the event — including a staffer at a chocolate store who “gave all our guys fudge.”
“It was a win-win-win for the mall, for cityHUNT and for our LARC residents,” Bratzel said. “It allowed them to do things that maybe they didn’t think they could do. I think in so many ways this event brought out the best in them.”
About LARC Ranch: The nonprofit LARC Ranch (Los Angeles Residential Community), established in Bouquet Canyon in 1959, strives to help developmentally disabled adults thrive. LARC provides homes, recreation, social activities, physical fitness, day training workplace training and more. Additional information about LARC is available at www.larcfoundation.org.