Frontline Initiative: Health and Wellness

Healthy Lifestyles Project: Live and Well


Erin Smithers is director of the New Jersey Self-Advocacy Project in North Brunswick, New Jersey.

Frankie Bayak-Media is the project's communications coordinator.

Erin and Frankie can be reached at

HLP: Live! Art Workshop: Sponge Paint Art

Image of Zoom Room with 12 screens shown:

1st screen: A white sheet of paper with the word Hello artfully printed in black letters in the center of the page. There is sponge-paint art on the page with light blues, pinks, and yellow.

2nd screen: A white sheet of paper with a butterfly drawn in black ink. There are sponge paint spots throughout the page that color the butterfly and the background. The artist's arm is across the page as they continue to draw the butterfly.

3rd screen: A white sheet of paper with circles colored blue, purple, yellow, and red.

4th screen: Two people. In the foreground and in focus is a woman with dark hair wearing a white shirt. In the background and out of focus is a man with short gray hair and a beard; he is wearing a dark shirt.

5th screen: A man with a bald head and a dark scruffy beard, wearing a white tee-shirt.

6th screen: A white sheet of paper with purple sponge art circles with dark blue crayon over them.

7th screen: A man with short brown hair and glasses, wearing a light brown sweatshirt. His head is resting on his hand.

8th screen: A person holding up their art. They are wearing a blue shirt. The art is a white page that has been painted blue, green, pink, yellow, black, and purple. It reads, "Happy Valentine’s Day."

9th screen: A person with short, parted hair, wearing a light green shirt.

10th screen: A hand with red polished fingernails holding a white page with colored horizontal stripes in purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, and pink.

11th screen: A white wall and ceiling.

12th screen: A person with black hair and glasses, wearing a purple-and-white hoodie. They are holding a white paper notebook with circles of the same size throughout the page. Some of the circles have no color. Others are painted yellow, red, and blue.

Maintaining a healthy body and mind is key to unlocking so much of our potential. When you feel good, you make better choices, come up with amazing ideas, and have the drive to achieve your goals. The road to a healthier life may seem difficult, but no one has to do it alone. The best regimen is the one you’ll stick to, day after day. When you can improve your health and well-being with the help of knowledgeable experts, friendly faces, and exciting and fun new activities wherever you are, that’s the plan you’ll stick with! And thanks to a generous grant from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, the Healthy Lifestyles Project (HLP) can provide just that for the people you support.

The New Jersey Self-Advocacy Project (NJSAP), a program of The Arc of New Jersey, has provided HLP content for nine cycles since 2017, nearing a decade of programming aimed at teaching and supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to live a more independent and healthier lifestyle.

Through HLP, we have hosted a series of in-person events, including rock climbing, accessible hiking trips, cooking classes, equine therapy, art therapy, yoga, snow tubing, laser tag, glass blowing, and more. These are just a few of our past adventures.

But, in 2020, the pandemic struck. Our staff and all of our participants were now stuck at home. How could we promote health and wellness, now an even more-important commodity, while we were all apart? HLP found its renaissance in virtual programming. That blossomed into daily wellness content with an even-wider reach than before, using the Zoom platform.

Stay Healthy at Home

Tuesday 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET

We introduced our "Stay Healthy at Home” webinar series, which now includes over 80 recorded webinars. The series has reached over 2,500 participants on topics such as internet safety, stress management, improving social skills and boundaries, the gut-brain connection, and welcoming plants into your diet.

"NJSAP’s Stay Healthy at Home webinars have been helpful to me because they are informative, timely, and I love to learn… I often share information and resources from NJSAP on my social media accounts with friends and family who also really appreciate the information. You are helping more people than you think outside the NJSAP community. Keep up the great work!"

~ Julia, self-advocate

Healthy Lifestyles Project: Live

Wednesday 11:00 a.m. ‑ 12:00 p.m. ET

Friday 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. ET

We also created our Healthy Lifestyles Project: Live program. Healthy Lifestyles Project: Live welcomes zoos, art therapists, professional recording studios, dance instructors, personal fitness trainers, and more to help participants join together, on screen, to chat, learn, and discover new ways to live a healthier lifestyle.

"I just wanted to thank you for your patience and great information with these sessions. Every Wednesday, we are virtual and usually do a movie and/or cooking lesson with our students and your activities have added such a great element for us! We are so impressed by your level of patience and engagement and thank you for that. It is wonderful to have community resources like this to enhance what we do in the classroom and virtually. Looking forward to many more Zoom activities!"

~ Tara, special education teacher

Brain Games

Thursday 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. ET

Join Zoom here (No registration needed)

Another addition to our programming, Brain Games, presents a chance for people to socialize, work together, and gain new knowledge while playing entertaining (and often hilarious) games together.

“The New Jersey Self-Advocacy Project's Brain Games has helped me stay busy and participate more.”

~ Anita, participant

And since we know everyone’s busy schedules don’t always align, we also offer on-demand mini-trainings on our YouTube page about nutrition, simple recipes, music and art therapy, and fitness. If you are part of a class or day program group, we also offer hour-long free trainings on a wide assortment of health and wellness topics, tailored to your needs.

"NJSAP has continued to provide essential, quality content via social media and online platforms…[the NJSAP] team continues to deliver informational and interactive videos on their social media accounts to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This content has allowed participants to remain connected and informed."

~ Brooke, DSP

If you or someone you support wants to get healthier, the Healthy Lifestyle Project program can help! It all starts with a click on our website:


It’s the connections and memories we make along the way that truly help us push to achieve our goals. With HLP, we want to not only support and educate people with IDD about health and wellness, but also foster connections. We’ve had participants meet up at Special Olympics events, wish each other happy birthdays, and even start a podcast together. Others show off new recipes they’ve learned, their favorite films, or showcase their cool talents, impressive skills, and cute pets. Our staff has celebrated and given awards to those special MVPs who show up at every event and look forward to those inevitable in-jokes that come up with the core crew (“Chucky” has somehow become a recurring topic here). We’ve even created a theme song for NJSAP extolling the power of self-advocacy and working together. With the Healthy Lifestyles Project, we can live healthily, together. And we’d love for you to join us!

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