We are thankful for Chris.

As we approach the holiday season, we want to remember all the amazing work JCCA staff do to repair the world, child by child. Until Thanksgiving, we’ll be taking some time each day to highlight a member of our inspiring team. As the days get shorter and colder, we hope these stories will be a source of brightness and warmth.

Chris Kehr
Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator and Therapeutic Crisis Intervention Trainer, Pleasantville Cottage Campus

Chris Kehr has been an essential part of the Pleasantville Cottage Campus team since 2008. In his dual roles as Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator and Crisis Intervention Trainer, he oversees a staff of ten, ensuring that each child is able to take advantage of the diverse and exciting activities the campus offers. “All our recreation planning happens between the time our kids come home from school and bedtime—there’s a lot to do,” he says. “Our terrific, dedicated team works hard to make sure that these young people get as many opportunities as possible. And we’ve come a long way since our wonderful supervisor Angelina Falzone has come on board.”

Activities for campus residents include basketball, a ropes challenge course, rock climbing, a fitness center, pet therapy, and art and music programs; field trips off campus range from movies, museums and NY Knicks games to trampoline parks, urban dance lessons and cooking groups. Chris explains, “All these activities are intended to help with managing anger, defusing crises, encouraging team-building and developing a sense of camaraderie, support and self-esteem. These kids have been through so much and sometimes feel alone; engaging with their peers in this way helps conquer their fears and become more confident.”

He continues, “Working with at-risk young people attracted me because I had also started to go down that path as a child. So I wanted to give something back and steer these kids in the right direction. We try to teach them about what it takes to work toward and be committed to something and how that can help them succeed in life.”

Angelina Falzone, Director of Campus Clinical Support Services, says of Chis, “He is very dedicated and hard working. He’s also incredibly supportive of his team and always has their back. You can see that Chris genuinely cares about both the young people we serve and his team members in every interaction he has with them. No matter how stressful the situation, Chris comes through with a positive attitude.”

In speaking about the gratification he derives from the work, Chris recalls a guarded boy who has had difficulties with substance abuse and relating to his peers. “I was looking for a way to connect with him and we finally settled on boxing lessons twice a week. The change in him over time has been remarkable: he’s opened up to me, sharing information about his troubled past and his problems. I’ve seen him grow in confidence and that makes me feel really great.” Chris adds, “The work has super challenging moments, and it’s not for everyone. I give our Residence Supervisors and milieu staff a lot of credit—they’re fantastic with these kids every moment of every day and give them all they’ve got. I’m so thankful for all of them.”