“When I get frustrated, when I’ve had a bad day, being able to talk to someone, to vent, to get advice or just have someone who understands because they’ve been there is critical,” said Cline, a member of the Special Kids Foundation and the mother of a special-needs daughter. “For me, support is an ongoing thing; an everyday part of my life.”
Shai Glosser, also a member of Special Kids, feels the same way. It’s the daily contact with other parents like herself, the ongoing outreach and community-based events and programs, that make the biggest difference.
“Having a close community of parents, really a community within a community, is critical,” said Glosser, who has a son with autism. “Knowing there is someone to turn to in a crisis or for information, or just to reach out to, is a wonderful thing. It’s huge.”
And that, according to Special Kids Foundation Director Lisa McBride, is what the East County organization is all about. “Every day in a variety of ways, whether behind the scenes or on the front lines, we are working to make things better for the whole family, not just the special-needs child,” said McBride. “And that’s what makes us unique.”
Since 2006, the nonprofit organization has been dedicated to promoting the education, awareness and success of all families with children of special needs through parent support programs, community events and big dreams.
Monthly support group meetings, e-mail contact, monthly newsletters and a variety of annual events including private visits with Santa each season at Smith Farms, as well as bowling leagues and baseball and soccer organizations, all combine to create a constant presence in the community – a community increasingly supportive of special-needs children and their families.
“We have so many supporters, professional and private individuals who embrace what we do and help us in so many ways with our goals and plans,” said McBride. “We feel very blessed.”
One of the foundation’s most ambitious plans includes building a facility somewhere in East County where families can go to receive services for their children, including therapy and advocacy, educational and legal information and general support. In East County alone, there are more than 5,000 children with special needs, and no nearby services.
The foundation believed it had found a home for its center at the Delta Family YMCA in Oakley, but the local chapter abruptly filed bankruptcy a few months ago and plans for the center were shut down. Included in the foundation’s plans for the center was the construction of an all-abilities playground – a joint venture between the City of Oakley and the YMCA and for which Special Kids had been raising funds.
But the good news is that the playground is still on the city’s radar and plans for its construction continue to move ahead. “We’re looking forward to collaborating on the all-abilities playground,“ said McBride. “That’s something that we’re all looking forward to and are excited to help in whatever ways we can.
“We’re also aggressively pursuing the search to find a space (for the center) where we can start providing services. I’m very optimistic that even with the economic downturn we’ve all been going through, people are still driven to find creative ways to make things work – and we will too. Whether it means starting small with a few rooms, then that’s OK. We’re getting our toes in the water and getting started. We’re in a good place.”
And families of the foundation are in a good place, too. “This (the foundation) has been a great thing for me, for all of us,” said Cline. “It’s been so freeing to have something to do and places to go where we don’t feel like we have to stay at home or worry about how our child is going to behave or act. Everyone is always ready to offer support, advice and help, and what is so wonderful is that everyone’s successes are your successes, too. It’s really an amazing group.”
The Special Kids Foundation meets the second Wednesday of the month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Black Bear Diner in Oakley. For additional information, visit www.spkids.org or call 925-516-9690.