2018-01-31 / Columns

Celebrating the strengths and talents of those with special needs

Executive Director, Jewish Family & Children’s Service

Walking down the hallway of the Appel Art Gallery at the Katz JCC, you can immerse yourself in breathtaking artwork of all media and styles. A lovely Earth-toned clay platter imprinted with delicate leaves graces one corner. Over on the other side, Monetinspired, three-dimensional “coffee filter garden” scenes are hanging, just waiting for someone to be moved by their gentle details. Just down the hall a bit more, you see more artistic inspiration, created from egg crates, painted wood blocks, butcher paper and a host of materials. When in their everyday form, the materials don’t say much—but when creative hands have shaped and rendered them—they speak volumes.

On Wednesday, Feb. 7 from 6-7:30 p.m., the Art Gallery Reception, brought to the public by the JFCS TOPS (To Our Positive Success) program and the JCC ACHaD (Achieving Community Hopes and Dreams) program, will be making heads turn. Participants of both special needs programs have spent long hours and many memorable moments creating beautiful works for all to enjoy. The artwork not only represents creativity and imagination— it represents enriching times with their friends, developing social skills, and honing their individual talents. We encourage you to take part in the magic on the evening of the reception to see the exhibit or visit during the month of February when the exhibit runs.

Ian, a JFCS TOPS program participant, whose art is displayed in the gallery said, “I go to the show with my mom. Making the art is fun for me! I like doing new things and being creative!”

The positive feeling is mutual at the Katz JCC ACHaD program, as participant Max said about his art class, “I love painting the pictures because painting makes me happy. I feel great when I see my paintings hanging in my house.”

JFCS is always hard at work in helping those with special needs realize their full potential. Whether it is creating a masterpiece in a classroom setting with clay and our new kiln during our TOPS day program, or learning to hit a line-drive while participating on our Special Olympics softball team through our SAIL (Supports to Achieve Independent Living) Social and Recreational program, or finally landing that dream job by learning transferrable skills for the workforce through our Supported Employment program, JFCS wants each and every person with special needs to succeed.

March celebrates National Developmental Disabilities Month, and we’d like you to take the opportunity to join us as we continue our mission for inclusion, understanding, and empowerment for individuals with special needs and their families. If you or someone you know has special needs or a developmental disability, we’d like to share your stories of inspiration with everyone we can during the month of March. We want to celebrate you, your family, your accomplishments, and your perspectives.

You can tell us about how an employer, teacher or friend helped make your day. You can share with us how someone inspired you, or you can tell us how important it is to have community support. Friends or family of someone with special needs may share their stories as well. These are just some examples, so please don’t feel limited on what you can write to us about. You don’t have to be currently enrolled or participating in a JFCS program to help spread the message of empowering or celebrating someone who has special needs.

Share your story at www.jfcssnj.org/MyStory.

For more information on the services offered in Southern New Jersey through our JFCS Special Needs Program, you may also visit www.jfcssnj.org/specialneeds. 


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