Perspectives

Don’t take our word for it!

Here are some nice words that parents, participants, and volunteers have said about Friends in Action.

At the bottom of the page, feel free to leave a comment on how Friends in Action touched you.

“The two activities my daughter Ellen participates in are the highlight of her week. She will not miss bowling or her Friday night social unless something REALLY important comes along. Ellen’s communication skills are not great because she has poor hearing, and she has always been a little shy and attached to me. NOT AT FRIEND’S.  She goes in alone, at her request, and mingles beautifully. Her speech therapist told me she has never seen her as happy as she was at a recent social. When we received the fund raising flyer with her picture on it, we were AMAZED! She looked beautiful! Our friends and family couldn’t believe it was Ellen! She was smiling from ear to ear. Her case worker wanted a copy of the picture to show other clients. It has been a wonderful experience for Ellen and it gives my husband and me a night out each week. We haven’t done that in 17 years!”  —Jane Berrigan, Parent

“Friends in Action has changed my disabled son’s life.  Before his involvement with Friends, he was often home alone watching movies, playing games on his computer, or hanging out with his mom and dad.  He saw his two sisters socializing with friends, and he felt lonely and isolated.  When the FRIENDS schedule comes every month, he immediately posts the paper in his room, and he tells me when and where the activities are.  He socializes with friends in a supervised environment.  He is happy, his social skills have improved, his self-esteem and self-confidence have soared.  I believe that this has had a positive impact on his success in the work force. Michael now has three jobs in which he has success.  He gets along well with his employers and fellow employees.  Friends in Action has impacted this aspect of his life also.  My family is deeply grateful for all that Friends has done for our son.” —Nancy Clayburgh, Parent

“Brendan has expanded his circle of friends, as well as his opportunities to practice his social skills. It allows him to be with peers without being with his parents. He spends time in the community – getting to know it, and feel more comfortable in it. He gets exposed to events and activities that he might not otherwise be able to. He is able to work on his independent living skills in a safe environment. Others are impacted as well as they see people with disabilities having a positive, productive time together. It helps us as parents as we get to know other parents and share resources, ideas, problems, concerns, etc – It is a wonderful program – hats off to you and your staff!” —Paul Butler, Parent

“Our son Thomas loves Friends in Action because he feels like he is going out with his friends socially. His younger brother and sister have social lives with friends and now he feels like he does too! (without mom and dad participating!!) Thank-you for all you do!” — The Lisenos, parents

“The impact of Friends in Action for and on Jeremiah is great!  Miah would have no place to go, nothing to do if it weren’t for the Friends group.  He would be isolated so much more if it were not for the Friends group and the Friends extra activities.  The people are what’s best for Miah.  The activities offered in a fun and safe environment are good for both the friends participants and the parents, and the impact on families is enormous.  It allows us to have a break, to know that our son in having the time of his life, etc.” —Karen Salter, parent

“Friends has had a significant impact on Andy’s life in this past year. While I love the social component of Friends, which has allowed Andy the opportunity to practice his communication skills and ‘chat’ like everyone else in a natural and accepting environment, what’s been an unexpected and pleasant surprise to us is the key role it’s played in Andy’s transition from the school environment to his adult program.

Having participated in Friends activities, Andy was able to recognize some familiar faces when he first ventured out into the real world of adult programming. Those familiar faces in turn introduced him to new friends, and everyone encouraged him to try new things and push himself into unfamiliar situations. His confidence and self-esteem has grown two-fold this past year. Additionally, the variety of Friends activities, particularly the Wildcat program, has really enriched Andy’s limited day program.

I think one profound impact that the Friends Program has had is the community that has sprung up around its activities. While it’s crucial to a person with a disability to be an active and contributing member of his/her greater community, it’s also equally important to find a sense of belonging, to not feel different, to be like everyone else. Friends allows its participants to just be themselves.

Finally, I cannot say enough good things about the Wildcat program. Quickly, some ways Andy has benefited: a sense of normalcy, independence, confidence, continued opportunity for learning, friendship, camaraderie. I think the program has great potential to really impact the UNH community as a whole, not only with the students and professionals working with Friends participants, but the greater UNH population as they grow familiar with our ‘students on campus’. I think it’s a great natural partnership with benefits that go well beyond what our kids are experiencing.” —Kathie Bowen, parent

“Since my son starting participating in the Friends activities, from basketball to the Friday night socials and now Wildcat Friends, his quality of life has improved ten-fold!  He’s more social, self-confident and is continually learning how to be a good friend and how to be appropriate out in the community.  There is nothing like it for both people with and without disabilities.” — Nancy Beach, parent

“Dana attended Kittery Public Schools, where she was mainstreamed part of the time and worked with Special Ed Teachers and an incredible Ed Tech the rest of the time. While we (her mother and I) have always believed that mainstreaming is a good goal, we have always known that outside of the schoolhouse, it rarely results in any true community integration. By this, I mean to say that while the other students in school were (for the most part anyway) somewhat accepting, there were NEVER calls to invite her along to a movie or a trip to the mall after school hours, or any other social activity for that matter.

Three times, her caseworker at Maine DHS found funding for recreational activities for her, and hired young women to set up the activities and accompany her – (we called it “rent-a-friend”) – it didn’t work. One didn’t show up for the second activity, one moved away suddenly and without notice, and the third, who did an excellent job, went off to school.

While we have always been an active family, involved in many fun things, Dana’s social life consisted of these activities spent with family, and Special Olympics a few times a year.  It was at Special Olympics that Roxanne first told us about the Friends Group that Heidi had started in Portsmouth.

Friends has given her something to look forward to each week. She has somewhere to go, away from parents, where she can participate in social and recreational activities with people her own age and developmental level. No staring, no judgmental looks, just fun. She has the calendar marked several months out with upcoming activities and events.

Friends has given her what all young adults seek – a peer group with similar interests and lots in common – we are so thankful for it, and for all that Heidi and her dedicated staff do to keep it running!” —The Dean Family

“Friends in Action and Wildcat Friends provides opportunities for Erin to interact with a terrific group of people. I can honestly say that without these activities Erin would pretty much be isolated to her home and immediate family members. You really cannot measure the worth of the friendship and kindness that Erin receives from not only her peers but the wonderful staff members and volunteers in these programs. Thanks to all.” —Gerald Kotkowski, parent

“I comfortably sit here with a cup of coffee, on my laptop, trying to catch up on my in-box. I open an e-mail with a request of how Friends in Action has IMPACTED our lives.  While I am doing this, do you know what my daughter Rayna, Friends participant for 3 years, is doing?  She is busily getting ready, packing her bag, for yet another sleepover at a new friend’s house.  But it is Thanksgiving Day!?!?, you say.  Yes, it is.  The biggest reason that we are letting Rayna spend a holiday night with a friend is because we are going too!  Not only has Rayna made new friends because of Friends in Action, but we have as well.  Karen and Noel Rix invited us as a family to Thanksgiving Dinner because we have become very good friends through the girls’ friendship.  The struggles of families of special needs children are unique.  Friends in Action impacted our lives by bringing us all together as friends.  We now have a whole network of people that we have similar situations.

As Rayna gets ready, she is talking on the phone with her boyfriend, Luke.  Yes, Rayna has a boyfriend and this too is because of Friends in Action.  These two young adults are very much in love and love to spend as much time together as possible.  They attend most of the Friends activities from bowling, basketball, movies, socials and special field trips.

These relationships display the biggest IMPACT that Friends has had on our family.  Rayna is now the happiest young lady!  Truly happy.  She had always been a content young lady just going along for the ride to her brother’s activities.  She is now a happier, more content young lady with her own set of friends and events. The joy is seen on her face whenever she interacts with any of her new friends.  She loves the many friends she has made through Friends in Action and can’t wait for the next activity.  If she were a case study, it would be determined a huge success. A very positive impact has been made.  Friends in Action created an environment that provided her a place to make life-long friends and relationships. And for that, we are truly thankful.” —Mary Pappas, parent

“Wildcat Friends has been terrific for James.  He looks forward to it every week because of the friendships and pride in learning.  Both have had a huge impact on him.  How can I say it… he has a new smile?  He has new friends? He is proud of what he is learning and he is increasingly social.  What else can I ask for him?” —Lou Goscinski, parent

“The impact that Friends in Action has had in my son’s life has been monumental. Words can not easily express the gratitude I feel for Heidi and the people behind this wonderful organization.

The positive impact in my son’s life is that for the first time in his adult life he feels like he is part of a group where he belongs. Since leaving high school he has not socialized with his peers nor has he had any type of social life outside of his family. It brings tears to my eyes on a Friday when he reminds me that it is a dance night, and he wants to go dance with his friends. He has never had friends. He has had acquaintances in school but never friends. I am not sure that his definition of friends is similar to what I would define friends, but for him he considers the people at the dances on Friday nights his friends.

Having a social outlet and network for a developmentally delayed young adult is so important for his well being. The impact that Friends in Action has had in our son’s life is that for the first time in a long time he actually looks forward to something.  He enjoys the fact that he does something that is all his and not a family affair. The impact on his life having a safe place to practice his social difficulties is invaluable.

The impact of Friends in Action is that it a place where kids who do often fit in have a place to belong.” —Stacy Van Etten, parent

“Friends in Action is an important part of my life.  I love playing basketball and going to Friday Night activities.  I really enjoy spending time with all my friends at Friday Night.” —Darryl Date, Participant

“Friends in Action is providing THE most important service for young adults with disabilities.  As parents of a 26 year old who has disabilities, we struggle every day to try to help our son find a path in life.  What he needs most of all is to feel accepted, have friends his age and do things away from his parents.  Most of these young adults need some supervision and Friends has provided the space, the supervision and the FUN!  These moments are few and far between for these young people with special needs.  They wait for the next event.” —Jim and Leslie Tufts, parents

“My son, Stephen, would have a very different life were it not for Friends in Action activities.  He is 26, has graduated from high school, and has watched the friends he had in school go away to college.  Due to his reduced social and athletic skills, there were no activities available to him in the community.  Friends in Action has been a fantastic addition to his life and has brought him out of the isolation of his room into the community where he has been able to play basketball, form friendships, and have an active social life.  He looks forward to all the FRIENDS activities, participates in all of them, and looks forward to seeing his friends there.”  –Sharon Thagard, parent

“Friends are what makes the world go round.” — Amanda, Participant

“Going into it I had a lot of misconceptions about how these kids were going to be and act, and I was completely surprised at the reality of it.  I think that by exposing ourselves to people who are different than us will only make us stronger, more accepting individuals.” —UNH Student Volunteer

“During my volunteer experience I learned that just because someone has a mental disability doesn’t mean they are necessarily “different.”  They are all very smart human beings with tremendous ambition and desire.  They are funny, exciting and smart individuals.” —UNH Student Volunteer

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