December 2013: Brooke
Brooke ended her first evening at the Friday Night Club telling us she met a friend; something we had never heard her say before.
At 15 months of age, we learned our daughter Brooke would have challenges ahead of her. Now 16 and with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, social interactions with peers are often difficult and distressing for her, many times leading to seclusion. As she entered her teen years, Brooke saw her sister socialize with friends and wanted to participate in “teenage” activities, but it was difficult to find a place where she would fit in. We knew there were many teens for Brooke to meet, there was just nowhere for this to take place. As parents, this affected us deeply. Then two years ago, through United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County (UCP-OC), we heard about the Friday Night Club.
Friday Night Club opened Brooke’s world. This bi-weekly event is a place where teens with disabilities feel welcomed and accepted. It gives teens with or without disabilities the opportunity to play games, watch movies, sing karaoke and simply spend time with one another in an inclusive and fun environment. Friday Night Club gives teens with special needs something to look forward to.
Every person deserves a place to belong and friends to share in their journey, and Brooke now has that. This club brought out positive emotions in Brooke we had never seen, and more than anything we see self-confidence. In addition to Friday Night Club, Brooke looks forward to UCP-OC’s therapeutic fitness and music classes, as well as respite with a trained UCP-OC employee, which also gives us a much needed break. UCP-OC has given our daughter a home.
With your help, Brooke can continue to look forward to Friday Night Club and the other UCP-OC services she and nearly 4,000 Orange County children and families utilize throughout the year. The Friday Night Club is just one of the many programs UCP-OC offers to end the isolation that so many children and teens with special needs feel. Programs at UCP-OC serve the critical developmental, social, and emotional needs of children and teens with disabilities and provide much-needed support to parents and caregivers, including education and skilled childcare.
We invite you to join us in giving back to UCP-OC this season in gratitude for all UCP-OC has done for our daughter and her new friends. We are grateful for a place where teens can feel accepted for who they are.
UCP-OC relies on your generosity to fill these critical gaps in services. Children, teenagers and young adults with special needs are a growing demographic in Orange County, and are often isolated and overlooked. Together we can foster friendship and acceptance for all children with disabilities in Orange County. Please help children and teens live a Life Without Limits by sending in your gift or going online to www.ucp-oc.org/give today.
Thank you for making a difference in the life of Brooke and her friends at UCP-OC.
Hilary & Mark Kershberg