SPECIAL BUDDIES BACKGROUND (from Monica McDivitt, founder of Special Buddies)
I created Special Buddies when my daughter, Samantha, was in first grade. Samantha was born with multiple disabilities as a result of a chromosome 18qdeletion. Sam was born with a cleft lip and palate. She is Deaf, nonverbal, has autism and is cognitively and motor delayed; however, Sam is so much more than her disabilities. Sam is sweet, funny and loves to swim, surf, swing and ride horses. She also loves music and books and manages to inspire anyone who takes the time to know her. No one would know this by just looking at her.
My husband, John, and I see Sam as our sweet, happy, beautiful little girl but I often find that others just see a little girl who looks and acts differently. This observation became real one day when I was volunteering at school and I overheard a child say, “She looks mean. She looks weird.” Sam couldn’t hear what her peer had said about her but I did and it really bothered me. My feelings were hurt and that is when I decided that something needed to be done to change this view of my child.
I heard that “Circle of Friends” existed in some Katy schools but received no information about it. I was also aware of Best Buddies, a program that currently only exists in high schools. After speaking with the State Director of Best Buddies, I learned that there isn’t enough funding for middle school programs in Texas and the program does not exist for elementary schools. Having done my research, I explained my idea to him. He liked it and told me to do what I planned to do and if it worked to keep on doing it!
Today we have Special Buddies at Kilpatrick Elementary, Shafer Elementary and Beckendorff Jr. High. The program is truly working but we still have a long way to go with respect to teaching others about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This is why it is important to begin early and teach our children while they are young so they are able to see and learn that everyone has value.
Q&A with Monica
What will you do with the support you receive from the Cinco Ranch Rotary Camo 5K?
It only takes about $500 to begin a Special Buddies program at each school. With funding from the fun run, we would create new programs in other Katy ISD schools. We would be able to fund more activities for the children such as ice cream socials, Halloween, Christmas and end of year parties. The kids have been asking us to bring in a a mobile video game truck so that’s also on our list. We will definitely purchase more program t-shirts, cameras to capture the memories we make during the year, photo books, and possibly start a garden for kids to maintain.
What is your greatest need as an organization?
Overall our greatest need is funds to cover program costs. We also would love to have an iPod Nano and ION block rocker speaker system for each school. The children love music and love to dance and be in constant movement. A digital camera for each program would also be a wonderful addition. Any support to help promote the program within the school district would be amazing. We want to grow Special Buddies and have programs on all Katy ISD elementary and junior high campuses.
How many students are currently in your program?
We currently have three schools in Katy participating in Special Buddies. Shafer Elementary has 12 children with IDD and 25 buddies. Beckendorff Junior High has 11 children with IDD and 151 buddies. Kilpatrick Elementary has 80 children participating. , I have also been approached by parents from Seven Lakes Junior High, Cinco Ranch Junior High, Katy Junior High, Morton Ranch Junior High and Memorial Parkway Junior High who are interested in creating a program at their schools.
If people are interested in helping out, what is the best way for them to reach out to you?
If anyone is interested in volunteering or donating to Special Buddies, we encourage them to visit our Facebook page and either send us a message or post to our Wall. Someone will get back with them quickly with more information. We appreciate any and all support!