May 28, 2024
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LifeTown Announces Grand Opening

(Courtesy of Friendship Circle) New Jersey has the highest rate of children with autism in the United States, and the largest population of children on the spectrum live in Essex County, making the opening of LifeTown critical to thousands of families in the region. LifeTown is a one-of-a-kind 53,000-square foot immersive educational, therapeutic and recreational facility, offering inclusive programs for those with special needs. The campus includes a replica of a Main Street with storefronts, helping to train individuals with special needs for independent living. It officially opens September 9.

At its center lies LifeTown Shoppes, an 11,000-square-foot replica of a Main Street you would find in nearly any town, preparing those with special needs for independent living. It includes a realistic-looking branch of the regional Regal Bank, an RWJBarnabas Health medical center, a Words Bookstore branch, ShopRite supermarket, electronics store, pet shop, nail salon, copy center, flower shop, clothing store, coffee shop, laundromat, movie theater and a roadway with cross walks and traffic lights. The shops were designed to offer real-world scenarios in a safe and controlled environment for participants to learn to navigate independent living and job training.

Each store and business in LifeTown Shoppes reinforces skills such as money management, time management, counting, sorting, communication, social skills, sensory integration, following directions, attention to detail, decision making etc. LifeTown Shoppes will be used by special needs educators and schools, who will be able to practice classroom lessons through this simulation. Staffed by volunteers and student interns, the Shoppes experience will impact everyone involved.

LifeTown also provides a myriad of activities for children, teens and young adults with special needs and their families. In-house therapeutic settings include art, water, light, sound, sensory and occupational. All programs and spaces are specially designed to accommodate and engage individuals with varying abilities and needs.

In addition to the therapy areas and LifeTown Shoppes, the facility also includes a zero-entry indoor pool, gym, flex spaces and an outdoor football field sponsored by the NFL and New York Jets.

The nonsectarian facility was created by the Friendship Circle, a project of Chabad Lubavitch. Its development was made possible by over 2,500 private and commercial gifts.

“The goal of LifeTown is to make the world a welcoming place, integrating people with special needs, including autism, into daily life,” said LifeTown CEO Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum. “LifeTown is a model for people with special needs and all kids—when they play together they naturally come together and don’t notice differences.”

“We are excited about the many opportunities that will be available to train and support young people with special needs,” said LifeTown Executive Director Toba Grossbaum. “This new facility will empower individuals with special needs to reach their fullest potential and become more independent.”

LifeTown offers integrated afterschool programs, Sunday respite programs and sports leagues, which are open to both individuals with special needs and their typically developing peers, helping to break down barriers in society.

The Sept. 9 grand opening ceremony will celebrate the Friendship Circle’s 20th anniversary with a concert from Jewish music sensations Yaakov Shwekey and the Y-Studs. The program begins at 5 p.m. and is open to the public. There is no charge to attend.

Visits to LifeTown Shoppes can be organized by special needs educators through https://www.lifetown.com/visit/. Its address is 10 Microlab Road in Livingston, New Jersey.

LifeTown redefines the landscape for individuals with special needs, helping them reach their fullest potential. Its unique environment and volunteers are devoted to training and supporting people with special needs. Each element of the facility was designed specifically to be the most welcoming and engaging facility for individuals with special needs. For more information or to get involved, please visit www.LifeTown.com

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