First Church Buddy Break Gives Three Hours of Free Time to Parents of Special Needs Kids, Volunteers Needed

If you are a parent of a special needs child, you know how much energy it takes to care for them each day.

Children are welcomed with open arms to Buddy Break.

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.

Parents sign their children in.

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,

Several of the VIPs wear ear muffs for sound.

But it turns out that it wasn’t very far outside.

Some of the kids are in wheel chairs.

Several of the VIPs are wheelchair bound.

Others will run a Buddy ragged.

VIP walks with her Buddy from one room to another.

My hour last time around, my middle school VIP climbed stairs enough times to wind me.

Some VIPs run for most of the time; others prefer sitting in a wagon and being pulled around.

He completely rejected the “Quiet Room.”

If there is too much stimulation, there is always 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.

This comfort dog is warmly received.

Two sessions, small comfort horses from Barrington Hills’ Mane in Heaven have been walking the halls wearing little booties.

This wheelchair bound boy got to touch the little horse. He was delighted!

Another time, there was a petting zone out front.

There is a Play Room.

This boy and his teenage Buddy enjoyed a child’s creche.

Children can play house in the room, too.

Paying house is encouraged in this room.

Sometimes there are movies.

“The Little Rascals” delighted one young man.

Santa showed up, delighting virtually all of the kids.

The appearance of Santa Claus last December had a calming affect on even the hyper-active children.

Needless to say, Santa was a really big hit.

It was hard for the VIPs to wait to greet Santa.

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.

WII Bowling was offered at this Buddy Break.

Besides electronic bowling, there is a hall that is turned into a bowling alley.

Everyone who wants to can bowl in this hallway.

Outside the sanctuary, there is a small trampoline.

The trampoline works off lots of energy.

Some of the VIPs really jump high.

The young man was a powerful jumper.

There is also a plastic pool filled with balls that children like to jump and lay in.

The balls in a pool attract the kids.

Others like to be thrown into the pool.

This preschooler liked to be tossed into the pool.

Some VIPs hid under the balls in the pool.

A VIP tunnels under the balls.

Tossing balls was another option.

Some of the VIPs like to toss the balls out of the pool. The adults were happy that another was happy to pick them up and put them back inside.

Near the pool and trampoline are today’s versions of pogo sticks.

This little girl knew how to jump on this updated version of a pogo stick.

There is a craft room.

Each Saturday, there is a different craft to make.

Another room has Thomas, the Tank Engine, track, engines and cars.

This grade school lad is playing with Thomas, the Tank Engine.

No train is on the track, but lots of track has been laid.

Some VIP has had fun laying out Thomas, the Tank Engine, track.

There is also a vertical marble toy.

Put a marble on top and watch it roll down the shoots.

In the same room, was a little house to explore.

“What’s in there?” this VIP wonders before he goes exploring.

And slot cars.

An older VIP helps a younger one with slot cars.

On a good day, some of the VIPs did some gardening.

Who knew that pulling weeds would interest kids.

Some like to be pulled.

This little VIP loved to be pulled around first Church.

Others prefer to provide their own locomotion.

This VIP heads her tricycle down the incline from the area outside the sanctuary to the big community room.

Board games are available in the dining room

Table games are played in the cafeteria.

So is Etch-a-Sketch.

Etch-a-Sketch entranced this young man.

That’s where the young people eat the lunches they have brought.

While the instructors called it “yoga,” it looked more like calisthenics to me.

Yoga was taught in the First Church chapel.

One VIP is occupied with a table activity, while others eat their lunches.

There also are alphabet tiles there.

Playing on the floor is available, too.

Toys used by the First Church Preschool kids are also available.

This little girl pushed a scooter.

Snacks are available for volunteers.

Snacks are available for the volunteers.

After the Buddy Break, the adult fill out information sheets to help the VIP’s future escorts.

After the Buddys have completed their volunteering, they add to the information about their children.

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


First Church Buddy Break Gives Three Hours of Free Time to Parents of Special Needs Kids, Volunteers Needed — 5 Comments

  1. Cal,

    One of the best stories you’ve ever published.

    Thank you!

  2. My heart broke when I learned about the one couple that went to their car just to sleep.

  3. Remember when we had numerous SERVICE groups providing VOLUNTEER supported SERVICES to the public?

    Most have ceased to exist because they could not compete with government groups providing the same services funded by confiscated tax dollars to pay GOVERNMENT employees.

  4. Do you know how old volunteers need to be?

    I have 1 and know several more high school girls that would love to be a part of this.

  5. Please ask Karen Klaus, whose email is at the end of the article.

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