Esther Kang

Manhattan Beach offers new recreational classes for children, adults with special needs

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Cooking club participant prepares beef patties for her classmates. Courtesy of  Lisa Mantis

Cooking club participant prepares beef patties for her classmates. Courtesy of Lisa Mantis

For the first time ever, the Manhattan Beach Parks and Recreation Department is offering two classes this summer for children and young adults with special needs.

The new classes — a weekly cooking course and monthly dance course at the Joslyn Center — are the latest of an expanding program under Hermosa Beach-based nonprofit Golden Heart Ranch. The Golden Heart Ranch Social Living Club, which aims to create social spaces for kids and young adults with disabilities, also offers a track club every Wednesday through the Redondo Beach Parks and Recreation Department.

Rose van Weir Hein, Golden Heart Ranch’s founder and executive director, noted the lack of city programs designed specially to serve residents with special needs.

“That needs to change,” van Weir Hein said. “There’s just not a lot of programs for these guys to do things, especially for our young adults. There’s obviously such a huge influx of kids with autism and different developmental disabilities … it’s vital what we’re doing.”

The programs have already proven a high demand, van Weir Hein said. More than 30 individuals from across the South Bay regularly participate in the programs under Golden Heart Ranch Social Living Club.

The new cooking class, for ages 15 to 30, meets every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. Under the guidance of an instructor, the class starts at Von’s to shop for produce, then treks over to the Joslyn Center kitchen — lessons range from food safety to meal planning and preparation, often tackling intricate recipes. The class wraps up with a food-related craft.

The Golden Heart Ranch Dance Club meets on the first Friday evening of every month at the Joslyn Center. This program is for girls of all ages and abilities. The one-hour class entails a number of warm up routines, dances and exercises, encouraging participants to move in coordination with others.

“We wanted to do something that was really specific to our girls,” van Weir Hein said. “And they love it.”

Plans to expand the Social Living Club are already brewing. Van Weir Hein said she’s hammering out details to offer tennis classes for individuals with disabilities in partnership with Manhattan Beach. And with a recent donation of six cameras, the prospect of starting a professional photography class is very likely, she said.

For more information on the Golden Heart Ranch Social Living Club, visit Golden Heart Ranch’s website

To celebrate National Parks and Recreations month, the Manhattan Beach Parks and Recreation Department is offering a free trial class throughout July. For more information, visit the city website