LARC Ranch residents focus on their gifts, not their setbacks
It wasn’t too long ago, when mentally challenged citizens had no rights at all. They weren’t allowed to go to school, and in most incidents were sent away to institutions.
The Los Angeles Retarded Citizens Foundation (LARC) Executive Director Kathleen Sturkey says that a lot of people felt they had to, or should, send their child away. “In those days, mental disabilities were associated with insanity. Kids were sent to institutions because they were considered insane, but that wasn’t the case.”
Almost half a century ago, the Los Angeles Retarded Citizens Foundation (LARC Ranch) was founded by a married couple, who had a disabled child, but wanted more for them.
Back then, there were rarely any treatments for the disabled. One of the current LARC residents, known as Julie, would have frequent seizures, and all the doctors could do was put a helmet on her, and step back. But now, doctors understand much more about what are the causes and treatments of mental disabilities.
Originally, LARC Ranch was strictly a recreational program, then became a school for children. But, when the kids grew up, it developed into an adult program.
Now, LARC Ranch is the largest mentally disabled housing facility in the Santa Clarita Valley, with 102 residents.
“LARC Ranch is like its own community, full of loving and caring individuals,” says Sturkey. With thirteen 4 bedroom 2 bath homes, LARC Ranch feels as if it’s a small town. Each house is designed differently; whether its unique furniture, or special tile designed for wheelchairs. In every house, there is a kitchen, living room, dining room, wash room, and staff quarters.
Sturkey says that the residents try to live a normalized life as much as possible. “Each person has a chore, according to their abilities. We have great expectations, but they are never out of reach.” If one person can’t cook dinner, but they can set the table, that is his/her chore. The staff tries to pick chores that they know the residents can accomplish.
Some of the residents also work. They take the bus into town, and work at various businesses including Target, Kohl’s, and Magic Mountain. Throughout the week, highlights include Friday night movies, karaoke night, baseball and basketball practice, and many more outdoor activities. Residents also get the chance to dye and style their hair once a month, when a beautician comes out to the ranch. “They are grown up, and we treat them with the respect and dignity that they deserve,” says Sturkey.
The 65 acre ranch has a park (used for sports practice and recreation), a pool (soon to developed into an aquatic center), auditorium (used for dances), picnic area (for family visits), gym (used for basketball and other activites when it rains) and an educational center (used for crafts and other indoor activites). Inside the gym, on the wall, there is a picture of a cartoon shark, which is the program’s “mascot”.
For more information on LARC Ranch, click here  .