Virtually no kids are turned away from a local childcare provider and preschool, which has a big emphasis on inclusion.

Creative Care Clubhouse for Kids, on North Oracle Road, offers preschool and after-school programs for a mix of students with all levels of physical and intellectual capabilities.

Co-owned by Sarah Kelder and Linda Rapp, the center works to include arts and crafts, music and even live animals in its everyday instruction.

"We're doing fun activities but still reinforcing academics," Kelder said. "We're filtering in fun things the students might not be able to do in other schools."

Kelder, who has worked in education for 15 years, works with different groups in the community, such as a therapy horse program. Through that program, students can interact with ponies. A therapy dog named Homer also works with Creative Care kids.

A music therapist visits students twice a week. Students have the opportunity to participate in hands-on music instruction.

"We do things that help them with their listening skills and motor development," Kelder said. "As long as you're not destroying the instrument, you can use it."

As summer approaches, Kelder and Rapp are registering students for summer camp. They'll host two sessions a day and have space for 56 students altogether. Contracted with the state of Arizona, the program is available under Department of Developmental Disabilities respite care.

The business opened last May at 3827 N. Oracle Road, between West Roger and West Prince roads.

Creative Care intends to meet the needs of all children. With that in mind, the staff works on federal holidays and has a four-to-one ratio of students to employees in order to accommodate all types of developmental disabilities.

"There are a lot of adults here. Parents do not need to be worried about adequate supervision," Rapp said.

Creative Care also works to integrate students with more severe conditions into the regular activity rotation. Students who need extra attention are given tasks that meet their needs and abilities.

"I think the most important thing to convey is that we take all levels of physical and intellectual ability," Rapp said.

Rapp worked with an adult care program before helping found Creative Care. She teamed up with Kelder, a longtime friend, after she realized there was a strong need for this type of program in the Tucson area.

"There has not been adequate coverage," she said. "There are some options, but there hasn't been a full year-round center like this."

Kelder finds it hard to pinpoint the most rewarding aspect of being part of the tightly knit Creative Care family.

"I'm torn between whether it is helping the kids feel like this is a special place for them, or if it's the parents feeling the relaxation knowing their kids are safe," she said.

For Rapp, providing developmentally disabled children their own "clubhouse" is her greatest reward.

"They feel safe and accepted. It's OK to have a challenge or to be different here. Everyone here has an issue, it's OK, and we like it."

Creative Care summer camp

Creative Care Clubhouse for Kids, at 3827 N. Oracle Road, is registering students from ages 3 on up through high-school age for summer camp. Camp will run from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. weekdays May 21-Aug. 17.

Cost of care is generally funded by the Arizona Department of Developmental Disabilities, according to Creative Care co-owner Sarah Kelder.

For more information call 401-5865 or email

John Kuells is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact him at or 573-4117.