For most families, events such as Easter egg hunts, baseball games and birthday parties are a regular part of raising children. But for families whose children have Down Syndrome, Autism or other special needs, attending these public events can simply be too difficult.
McKinney mom Heather Astuto, the mother of 8-year-old LeAnna who was born with Down Syndrome, is working to create events designed with special needs families in mind. Over the past year, her group, Especially Needed, has put on several successful events including a Fall Carnival and an Easter Egg Hunt at The Ballfields at Craig Ranch.
The events have become so successful, she is now hoping to turn Especially Needed into a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization, to be able to seek grants and corporate sponsorships. But first, the group needs a sponsor for the $800 fee required by the IRS to get the non-profit status.
“We have so many great volunteers and ideas, but it is really hard to raise money for the events without that non-profit status,” she said. “We coordinate these events for families with special needs in the hopes of providing them with the same opportunities, enjoyment and community involvement that families without someone with special needs get to partake in.”
Plans for the 2nd Annual Fall Carnival are already underway as well as plans to start a “Birthday Club”. The idea behind the birthday club is hold one birthday party each month for special needs children.
“Some parents have told me their children are not able to participate in the activities common to many birthday parties, perhaps because they are not physically able or their parents are concerned their child could have an “episode” causing stress for the children and parents of the birthday child,” she said. “We want to create a safe place for children to come together to celebrate the things that really matter without having to worry about the things that don’t. Every child should have that one special day where everything revolves around them in a nurturing, positive and uplifting way.”
“There are so many things we want to do, we just need a little help getting started,” she said.
To find out more about Especially Needed, or to become a sponsor, visit www.especiallyneeded.org.
— Cindy Evans, Town Square Buzz