Hand-Full of Smiles builds friendships

4:46 PM, Jan 7, 2013   |    comments
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Playing with others is just part of being a kid but it can be challenging for children with special needs.

A new group offers an option.

"I am the mother of a 9 year old daughter with special needs with cerebral palsy and it's just really hard to take Brooklyn places and her enjoy it," Rachel Vandergriff said.

That's why Rachel Vandergriff decided to start a non-profit organization called Hand-Full of Smiles.

"I wanted to make something that was an environment that was comfortable for special needs kids," she said.

The kickoff event for Hand-Full of Smiles was a Christmas party last month. Kristy Newcomb brought her daughter Kiley.

"She's a go getter, she loves a challenge, just loves to go, go, go all the time," Kristy Newcomb said.

Kiley likes to go, go, go but she has cerebral palsy and difficulty walking.

"When we go places where there's a lot of excited people or kids they don't necessarily pay attention to children like ours, which is fine, its not their fault," Kristy said, "They could knock her down very easily. Just a quick brush could knock her down."

Two year old Hannah Kate is Jen Grey's daughter. The little girl also enjoyed the party and so did her mom.

"All the parents talked and the kids played and if a child was kind of out of control everybody was kind of like its normal, it was ok," Jen Gray said.

Kristy Newcomb said Kiley liked it too. "She had fun. She got to see Santa. And she was with kids just like her. There were no worries. It felt good as a mom not to have to sit and worry whose going to knock her over, or whose going to be mean to her, or is anybody going to stare at her because that's one of the things we get is a lot of stares and a lot of rude comments and you don't have to worry about that at a place like this."

The idea is to host get-togethers every other month and eventually move to monthly events.

"The more people who get involved the more connections people will make and I just think its really going to be successful," Jen said.

The next event is February 16th here at the Fountain City Lions Club.

"We're going to let them exchange Valentine's Day cards and just have a party and have fun," Rachel Vandergriff explained.

Rachel will bring her daughter Brooklyn and Kiley and Hannah Kate will be back too. They'll enjoy a Hand-Full of Smiles and something more.

"Make friends that they can have a lasting relationship for years," she said.

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