In 2002, several families shared concerns regarding the limited opportunities for their children with developmental disabilities after high school. In 2004, Wings was formed and today the 501(c)(3) provides vast and valuable opportunities for their members. For the community, Wings provides outreach to various partner groups and organizations, hosts their own events and offers an event center for rent.
The Wings day program provides members with classes and unique opportunities to serve the greater community. One of the most significant and impactful classes is transitional living, where members learn how to care for themselves and their living spaces using a unique, fully-functioning apartment classroom setup. Cleaning, laundry, hygiene, personal finances, etiquette, social and safety skills are just some of the topics covered.
Health and fitness classes include activities like yoga, aerobic dance, walking, basketball, soccer, cardio circuit training, core strengthening and riding adaptive bikes. Both team and individual concepts are emphasized. In art production, Wings members use different art techniques to produce thank you and encouragement cards.
Pottery, fleece blankets and other special projects are also created and donated to support nonprofit partners in the community.
The Wings computer and technology class offers members a chance to learn how to operate an iPad and safely communicate with friends and family all over the country via email. The class curriculum includes research projects that teach search engine use, photos and movie-making. Students from the University of Central Oklahoma’s nursing program help in this class as part of their clinical rotations.
In the culinary class, members learn how to safely make simple meals and snacks with skills such as chopping, measuring, mixing and following a recipe. Additionally, culinary class participants use their classroom kitchen space to make gourmet dog and cat treats to donate to local animal shelters, and bath bombs and soaps for the Wings Fall Festival, an annual event held on weekends featuring hayrides, food trucks, a petting zoo, inflatables, photo ops and pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. The 2021 Fall Festival runs Fridays through Sundays from Sept. 24 to Oct. 17.
Brenda McClain, Wings Program Director, said that what is most meaningful about the work they do is “having a place for Wings members to grow, thrive, find community and purpose. Wings members are joy-filled and engaged through their high-interest life-skill classes and volunteer work for our over 48 community partners. We focus on our members' abilities and grow from there.”
In 2020, the Wings day program served 67 members, ages 19-63, and the program currently has a waiting list. The application process involves a completed application, program tour, interview with staff, and a 30-day trial period before full acceptance into the day program.
A member social club also meets regularly for dinners and dances, providing the opportunity for meaningful friendship and connection. Although the 2020 social club format was modified due to concerns about COVID-19, 104 social club members were still able to participate.
“We are so blessed to have Wings,” said the guardian of Beverly, a Wings member. “It’s amazing staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to bring these very special and precious adults the one-of-a-kind program we know as Wings! I’ve never seen or heard of a program like Wings anywhere else, nor have I ever seen a special needs school, workshop or recreation center established in an environment as peaceful and beautiful as ours.”
There are a variety of options for the public to volunteer, donate and partner with Wings. There is an online volunteer application and additional information at wingsok.org. There are also many events that communities and businesses can attend and partner with to support the amazing work Wings is doing.
Future goals for Wings are focused on operational expansion, including the development of a private residential community where members can live independently. In January of 2021, a 74-acre site in north Oklahoma City, close to the current Wings location, was purchased.
Since the original founding parents of Wings met in 2002, they have been united with a long-term concern – who will care for our adult child when we pass away? A Wings expansion that includes a private residential community will help answer this question.