Bobbi Bach Freedman is one of NJCRID’s founding members. She has dedicated her career and personal time to NJ’s most vulnerable citizens through her professional and volunteer work. Bobbi has worked in a variety of settings including: schools, a county and a private psychiatric hospital, a municipal recreation department, a NJ State Department, and has volunteered at a local soup kitchen. Having been a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS), Bobbi is now retired. She and her husband, are the parents of three and grandparents of six, all under 6 ½.
I recently had the pleasure to interview Bobbi and got to know her beyond her bio.
What lead you to your interest in therapeutic recreation?
As a teenager, I babysat frequently and always enjoyed being with children. As a college student, I became part of an improvisational children’s theatre troupe. Beyond our performances in schools and libraries, we exposed the teachers to techniques focused on developing creativity with the kids. Also in college, I worked as a counselor for the North Brunswick Recreation Department’s Camp Rainbow. The Camp, at that time, was a recreation program designed for children with various disabilities. Additionally, while in college, I volunteered at a private special education school. Later on, as I was student teaching in Woodbridge Township, I was fortunate to be part of a state funded arts program. I had sought out Anne Battle, the program’s creative dramatist. I saw firsthand how her work improved the self-esteem of the children, and got their creative juices flowing. In fact, all of these experiences lead me to Penn State where I enrolled in their master’s program in Therapeutic Recreation. It was at Penn State that I developed research and a skillset, which put me on my career path.
You have worked directly with patients as a recreation therapist, and then at the state level to develop in-service education for community recreation personnel. How do you feel your experiences with direct services helped you in your later position for the state?
I believe that it was through my experiences in the delivery of direct services that I was able to help develop, present and evaluate staff training and related manuals. These skills were required for my job as part of a federally funded grant that was administered through the NJ Department of Community Affairs and directed by Dr. Jacquie Stanley. The grant focused on the in-service training of municipal, county and state recreation employees, and later for individuals with disabilities and parents. All of the training concentrated on developing, implementing and enhancing recreation services for NJ individuals with disabilities.
You were involved with the early development of NJCRID. How did that happen?
The formation of NJCRID was a result of the federally funded grant that was offered through the NJ Department of Community Affairs. NJCRID was created to continue the goals of the grant, as a lasting organization long after the funding ended.
What have been your contributions to NJCRID over the years?
I was part of a team that networked with parents, state department officials and recreation departments to support the formation of NJCRID. I have continually been an active member of NJCRID’s Program/Education Committee. This Committee has provided loads of statewide conferences and workshops. I have provided a perspective on current issues and have made suggestions for educational topics. We have offered Continuing Education Credits to literally thousands of conference and workshop attendees. I am very proud to be part of this effort. I have held several leadership positions, including NJCRID Co-Chairperson.
Do you have any advice for young professionals entering the field now?
I would recommend that young professionals connect with/get involved early in their careers, with various agencies and organizations that provide services for individuals with disabilities. I think there is a need for increased networking between all of the groups serving people with special needs. Joining related professional organizations, and surely attending conferences and workshops are very important too. I do hope the professionals entering the field will look for collaborative opportunities within the settings where they work.
What excites you about the field today?
I am excited that after many, many years and lots of work by very dedicated and persistent people, Recreation Therapists in NJ now have licensure! What a huge accomplishment that absolutely gives enhanced credibility to the field.
It was a wonderful experience for me to get to know about Bobbi and her varied experiences and influences. She is a warm, compassionate, knowledgeable professional. I appreciate the time she spent reflecting upon her career. NJCRID has been fortunate to have her as a member since its inception.
NJCRID Recording Secretary
I have known Bobbi Bach Freedman since May 1977. I was at a NJRPA conference at the old Playboy Club in Vernon, NJ. Bobbi was a speaker – great session. I remember it like it was yesterday. So, my first impression was – WOW!! A few years later, in 1980, NJRPA had a very active TR section – over 50+ members. I became Secretary of the Section and a Member of the TR Advisory Board. Bobbi was a member of the Board. So, our paths met again. The Advisory Board would meet 8 – 10x a year and plan workshops and write letters (yes actual letters) supporting bills. Bobbi was a big part of those meetings. She kept her CTRS status alive through various involvements especially with the Recreation Commission, while raising a family and having tons of other obligations. I became a member of NJCRID in 2015 and Bobbi was on the Commission. So, our paths crossed again. Fast forward to now, she is still involved with NJCRID. For 40+ years she has given back to the world of helping people with disabilities. It makes me a better person to have known her. I am proud to call her my friend and colleague.