The Special Kids Foundation (SKF) officially shut its doors on Dec. 31, and the East County special-needs community is grieving the loss of the unique organization.
Self-styled as a community resource to special-needs families seeking connections and advice, SKF president and founder Lisa McBride of Discovery Bay said the 14-year-old organization was another COVID-19 casualty.
“We did some pretty amazing things, but with the inability to hold fundraisers and actually reach out and connect with our families to do what we do … we thought this is the time,” McBride said, noting she and her fellow board members did not want to continue spending their limited funds on a storage unit and website when they couldn’t help their network of families.
During its active years in the Brentwood area, SKF connected families with special-needs children with each other, with recreational activities, play groups, communication tools, professional help and emotional support. They hosted fundraising events each year and donated iPads to children with communication issues, sponsored kids in local sports, offered scholarships, ran IEP (individualized educational plan) workshops and informational seminars for educators. McBride said the group’s proudest accomplishment was the all-abilities playground located at Veterans Park.
“We partnered with Brentwood parks and recreation and built that,” McBride said. “It is literally the only completely universal abilities, all accessible, enclosed park in eastern Contra Costa County. We are extremely proud of that. During the design process, we thought of everything, we got input from our families, and parks and rec listened to every word of it and put it into action. It is fantastic.”
McBride founded the group in 2006 with Brentwood resident CiCi Migay, another special-needs mom she met at a support group. Migay said she found support to be an important part of raising a special-needs child and jumped at the idea when McBride presented it.
“We decided there was more that needed to be done to support kids like ours and especially families like ours, because very little seemed to be in place at the time,” Migay recalled. “She asked if I would be on board, and I jumped at the chance. It’s hard to let go, but it was all worth every minute.”
Laura Bevilacqua said her family felt the love and support of SKF for its whole run and was deeply saddened to hear they were closing.
“They have been incredibly supportive,” Bevilacqua said. “They say it takes a village and when it comes to having a special-needs child, that couldn’t be more true. They were supportive in so many ways, first and foremost emotionally.”
Bevilacqua said connecting with families going through similar issues was especially important for her. She also noted the information she gleaned from the foundation on setting up trusts and finding doctors and therapists was invaluable.
Though McBride is setting aside her official SKF hat, she said she will still help those who need it with advocacy, advice and information. She said she doesn’t regret a moment of her time spent running the nonprofit and appreciated all the Delta community did for her and her organization.
“It was a fabulous idea, and I loved how the East County community embraced it with us,” she said. “We were supported constantly and consistently. People learned with us and grew with us and the tolerance for special-needs kids just grew leaps and bounds thanks to people getting involved with us. That’s huge in this day and age.”
The SKF Facebook page is still operating at https://www.facebook.com/specialkids06.
The universal abilities playground is located at Veterans Park, 3841 Balfour Road in Brentwood. For more information, call 925-516-5444.