Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and his wife, Tina, made their first trip to LifeTown Columbus Nov 8.
Located in the Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center in New Albany, LifeTown is a realistic, indoor city designed specifically for children with special needs to have fun while practicing important life skills through role-play.
Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann, director of the Chabad Center, gave Husted and his wife a tour of the facility.
“It’s well known that Jon Husted is a great champion for kids,” Kaltmann said. “He was adopted, and he cares deeply about every child in Columbus and in the state of Ohio. He’s just a super great guy, and for him to come with (Tina) is very significant for the Jewish community and for everyone.”
According to its website, LifeTown was developed in consultation with parents of children with special needs, therapists, educators and professionals. It is described as a place where students can learn in a supportive, positive and structured environment.
Husted spoke with the Columbus Jewish News during his visit to LifeTown.
“You can tell clearly that this setting is a very special thing for these children. This is a first-class facility,” Husted said. “It’s set up in a way to teach them about everything: how to manage money, how to act appropriately in social settings, how to do things like getting medical care and understanding finance. We all need to learn these things, and it also gives (the children) a safe and supportive setting to do it in.”
LifeTown also offers a prescription drug abuse prevention program, and Husted said it’s important to discuss drug use with children because people who have addictions, especially to opioids, have a hard time bouncing back from them.
“The key is to never go down that road, and this (program) helps those children learn the skills and maybe give them the confidence to help them make informed and better choices,” Husted said.
The lieutenant governor also complimented the many volunteers who spend their time helping children at LifeTown.
“This is always a two-way street,” he said. “When you’re bringing people in to help people who are in need, it changes both people’s lives. … We bring people into new experiences so they can learn from one another, and that’s why the convening of those worlds in LifeTown makes it special.”
CJN Account Manager Steve Pinsky contributed to this article.