If you are a parent of a special needs child, you know how much energy it takes to care for them each day.
If you aren’t, as my family isn’t, one can only imagine how worn out one is when the day is over.
With the death of their four-year son Nathaniel “relocated to heaven,” as their Buddy Break web site explains.
“It was through Nathaniel’s life that they were introduced into the world of disability, and once he passed away, they realized it was a world they couldn’t leave — a world God had brought them into,” the web site explains the motivation of Tim and Marie Kuck.
I count nineteen states where programs exist.
Locally, the First Methodist Church of Crystal Lake, the one with a new sign identifying itself as “First Church” at the intersection of West Crystal Lake and Dole Avenues, has been offering the parental breaks since January of 2007.
Parents bring their children at 10 and pick them up at 1 on about one Saturday a month.
What do parents do with their three free hours?
A leader in church in mid-Kane County that started the program before Crystal Lake, told our leader, Karen Kraus, that one couple just went out to the parking lot and slept in their car.
At Christmas, one mother told me she went Christmas shopping at Walmart.
Another couple went to lunch at Portillo’s and did some shopping.
The program has impressed First Church members so favorably that there is no need for outside donations.
There is, however, a need for outside volunteers.
The reason is that each child (called a “VIP”) must have a trained adult “Buddy.”
That introduction session is about an hour.
There is also a required background check, which the First Church pays for.
What an adult Buddy does is shadow the child for three hours, although sometimes the duty is shared, as was last time when I stepped in for the last hour.
Before the first session, I thought I was stepping outside of my comfort zone,
But it turns out that it wasn’t very far outside.
Some of the kids are in wheel chairs.
Others will run a Buddy ragged.
My hour last time around, my middle school VIP climbed stairs enough times to wind me.
He completely rejected the “Quiet Room.”
As you can see from the photos in this article (taken from three sessions), there are various activities.
Comfort dogs have delighted the children.
Two sessions, small comfort horses from Barrington Hills’ Mane in Heaven have been walking the halls wearing little booties.
Another time, there was a petting zone out front.
There is a Play Room.
Children can play house in the room, too.
Sometimes there are movies.
Santa showed up, delighting virtually all of the kids.
Needless to say, Santa was a really big hit.
One very bright teen VIP beat me at every game we played except electronic Battleship.
I came close in a WII bowling contest. I had never used the device before and really enjoyed it.
Besides electronic bowling, there is a hall that is turned into a bowling alley.
Outside the sanctuary, there is a small trampoline.
Some of the VIPs really jump high.
There is also a plastic pool filled with balls that children like to jump and lay in.
Others like to be thrown into the pool.
Some VIPs hid under the balls in the pool.
Tossing balls was another option.
Near the pool and trampoline are today’s versions of pogo sticks.
There is a craft room.
Another room has Thomas, the Tank Engine, track, engines and cars.
No train is on the track, but lots of track has been laid.
There is also a vertical marble toy.
In the same room, was a little house to explore.
And slot cars.
On a good day, some of the VIPs did some gardening.
Some like to be pulled.
Others prefer to provide their own locomotion.
Board games are available in the dining room
So is Etch-a-Sketch.
That’s where the young people eat the lunches they have brought.
Yoga was taught in the First Church chapel.
There also are alphabet tiles there.
Toys used by the First Church Preschool kids are also available.
Snacks are available for volunteers.
After the Buddy Break, the adult fill out information sheets to help the VIP’s future escorts.
And volunteers are needed to expand the program.
Each session has had a waiting list.
The next Buddy Break is October 20th.
Those interested should contact Karen Klaus at firstname.lastname@example.org.