(NEW PHILADELPHIA, OH) – When the Lacey Pac Adaptive Movement Center opened its doors nearly three weeks ago, the community gathered and celebrated alongside staff and future students! The entire town square of Downtown New Philadelphia was abuzz with excitement, but no one was beaming as brightly as Lacey Herbert-Stephen and her dedicated staff.
Now, nearly three weeks later, Lacey still can’t help but smile when she talks about the Adaptive Movement Center and the incredible kids and adults who have already found their home there. “In here they don’t have the same rules as out there,” explained Lacey, gesturing to the interactive and inviting lobby they’ve designed. Just outside the windows, traffic ebbs and flows along New Philadelphia’s South Broadway. “There are certain expectations and limitations for people with disabilities out there. Here, they can explore any room they want at their own pace. We keep them safe but we don’t hold them back. Every time I step into the lobby the chairs are moved, there’s new artwork on the tables, and the sensory rooms are rearranged. I love it!”
The Lacey PAC Adaptive Movement Center (AMC) is a unique addition to Tuscarawas County. Lacey and her husband are parents to four amazing children, but when their youngest arrived, she knew their lives were about to change. “When Cash was about 18 months old, he was diagnosed with autism. He’s my reason for all of this,” she says. In early 2022 Lacey opened her dance studio, Lacey Performing Arts Center, and offered sensory and movement classes for dancers with special needs. The class was a huge success and the Lacey Pac staff immediately picked up on the need for more programs, opportunities, and spaces in New Philadelphia for people with disabilities.
Right now, the AMC is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., all year long. Lacey’s goals for the future include fully-staffed full-time hours and care offered all year long, allowing caregivers to drop off their loved ones and head to work, visit the grocery store, or schedule a much-needed nail appointment. “There’s nowhere that offers year-round care for kids and adults with disabilities. And you cannot just trust anyone with your loved ones. We provide a safe place with professional educators and caregivers.”
A Private Tour
Lacey was kind enough to show me all the rooms and spaces at the Adaptive Movement Center. When the center is open, the lobby is always monitored by a staff member, and the front door remains locked to ensure intentional entering or exiting. Just off the lobby is a small kitchenette, stocked full of snacks and goodies, almost entirely donated by members of the community. Additionally, Lacey showed me the many art supplies and toys donated to the center. “The outpour of love and support from this community has been the most surprising part of this endeavor,” gushed Lacey. “I knew we had a generous community, but the financial and physical donations to the center made all of this possible.”
Near the kitchenette is what Lacey called her favorite space: The Quiet Room. Calming sensory lights, optional darkness, and a sound machine all come together to create a perfect space for self-regulation and relaxation. “Cash likes to bring his coloring book in here and quietly flip through the pages,” smiled Lacey. With the canoe-like beds and soft loungers all around, I was tempted to curl up and fall asleep in the room!
Lacey led me down the sensory hallway, connecting the lobby to the higher activities rooms. The floors and walls are outfitted with sensory stepping tiles, busy boards, and more. “Miss Farrah Raines is our lead professional,” explained Lacey. “She’s assisted by Miss Brooke Herbert and others.” Farrah has a background in Occupational Therapy and has been working with children and adults with special needs for nearly 20 years. She played a major role in designing the spaces at the AMC. The Tusc. Rainbow Connection also played a huge role in outfitting the spaces with equipment, toys, and learning tools.
The Sensory Room is filled with climbing equipment, lights, LEGO walls, and more. A little further down the hall, Lacey showed me the Large Motor Room. Any active child or adult would be awe-struck by the play equipment at the AMC. The High Motor Room includes body rollers, which simulate a comforting hug, a large climbing wall, playground-like equipment, and a padded wall that actually peels off and can be used as yoga or tumbling mats.
In addition to the play spaces, the AMC also has ADA restrooms, weighted vests and blankets, full-body bags, and a large assortment of sensory toys for regulation and calming practices. The center hosts movie nights, yoga sessions, and spontaneous dance parties, too!
Their mission statement says it all: “Lacey PAC Adaptive Movement Center provides an extra-curricular facility for children and adults with special needs and disabilities of all ages. Creating an adaptive atmosphere that caters to the special needs community and provides activities, therapy, life skills, interacting of peers and much more.”
The Future of the Lacey PAC Adaptive Movement Center
Lacey is always dreaming. If history has taught her anything, it’s that grand plans CAN become reality with hard work and good people. She surrounds herself with friends and staff who know her heart and believe in her vision. Chelsea Dryden has been with Lacey every step of the way. She’s the first smiling face to welcome you into the dance studio and greets each little dancer by name. Kelly Nelson holds down the lobby at the Adaptive Movement Center and has a sweet smile and gentle soul, ready to welcome kids and adults of every age into the center.
All the women behind Lacey Pac AMC share a goal and purpose to grow, build, and strengthen the Lacey Pac community. “Within the next year, we’d like to see progress on the two sister studios [the dance studio and the AMC] moving into the same building. The dance studio building has a second floor that we’ve already begun to demo and transform into the AMC’s future home. The centers are separate businesses and operate independently, but they’re both under the Lacey Pac umbrella,” says Lacey. Businesses in the community, both large and small, have shown up for the special needs community. Lacey didn’t have a negative thing to say about the community that embraces and supports her here in Tuscarawas County. “Starlight, the Tuscarawas Co. Board of Developmental Disabilities, and many others have really helped us out and pointed people in our direction. Large companies like ProVia have given both their time and finances. Even the construction workers who helped remodel this center gave their time to build out our sensory rooms!”
The Lacey Pac Adaptive Movement Center is an incredible resource and addition to the area. Local families and caregivers will find a home within the door of 117 South Broadway Street. Lacey’s incredible vision and hard work make Lacey Pac AMC “the place to be!”
A big thank you to Lacey and her team for not only allowing us a private tour and interview, but bringing a much-needed space & service to a deserving and growing community.