I wanted to post some information about a charity I have had the pleasure to volunteer with. I know many times it is easy to understand a charity’s mission just by the name, but in this instance, it is not real clear on what this year’s charity does based on the name.
The National Inclusion Project serves to bridge the gap that exists between young people with disabilities and the world around them. They partner with communities and inclusive programs creating awareness about the possibilities that inclusion can bring.
Here is their logo and website link:
The National Inclusion Project was first started by American Idol runner up, Clay Aiken. Many folks are not aware of this story so I will give a very short summarization. As part of his requirement for graduation from the University of North Carolina with a degree in special education, Clay came up with an idea of a charity that would benefit children with disabilities. When his fans got word, they thought the charity really existed so they started sending in financial donations. To make a long story short, Clay decided along with a friend of his, Diane Bubel, to make the charity a reality. Clay used to work with her son, Mike, who has autism.
Please take a moment to view this video. It is very informative:
Over the years, The National Inclusion project has been doing wonderful things. I know I will never be able to even begin to explain everything they do, but I am going to try and give a short explanation. The National Inclusion Project has created programs in I believe 34 states now. Most of these programs are camps where children with disabilities, mental or physical, are placed in programs alongside their peers who do not have disabilities. Every activity and learning program is designed to encompass every child no matter what their disability is.
So, what so great about this you may ask? Well first of all children are now able to attend programs where they don’t sit on the sidelines while their peers interact in activities. Instead, they are right there alongside everyone else participating in the same activity. Parents are picking up their children from camps and instead of hearing everything their child cannot do, they now get to hear what their child can do. A parent of a child with a disability many times only hears everything their child won’t be able to do such as:
Your child will never have real friends.
Your child will never leave your home.
Your child will never speak.
Well let me tell you this. In the few years I have been involved with this charity, I have had the pleasure of attending a few events where I have been blessed to hear testimonials from the children and the parents who have attended these programs. The child that has never had a friend, has made friends. The child that was never leaving the house because they were being bullied because of their disability or they were ashamed, is now being accepted into programs where their disability does not define who they are. In fact, many times the disability is not even noticed because everyone is participating. Children who have never spoken or have only a few words in their vocabulary are now speaking fluently and their vocabulary is growing everyday.
The National Inclusion Project teaches to put the person before language. For example, instead of an autistic child or a wheelchair bound child, they become a child with autism or a child with a wheelchair. It becomes a characteristic of who they are, but it does not define who they are any more than a child with blonde hair or a child with blue eyes.
The National Inclusion Project provides nationwide training to teachers, camp counselors, students, or anyone who is interested so these programs can be put into place at schools and YMCA programs.
The National Inclusion Project provides awareness to communities on how to make all aspects of life accessible to everyone. One example is an accessible playground, NOT PLAYGROUNDS FOR KIDS WITH DISABILITIES. These playgrounds are developed for all kids. Pathways are paved for wheelchairs and are made wide enough so the child in a wheelchair and a child that can walk can run alongside each other instead of the child in a wheelchair sitting there waiting for the right moment to go up a ramp so they don’t get trampled. Swings are designed so parents can place their child in safe seat to swing where they won’t fall out and the swings are placed alongside swings for kids that don’t have a disability so they can interact together instead of the child with disabilities being singled out and put off to the side. Slides are made with special steps where a parent can sit and lift their child out of a wheelchair and carefully place them on the slide.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what this charity does. I have had the pleasure of getting know most of the folks that run this wonderful organization and I will tell you they have hearts of gold and they are very passionate about their mission. I have listened to testimonials of kids and parents and have literally sat there in tears hearing their stories. They work they do is simply amazing!
Of course, The National Inclusion Project is a non-profit organization so their funding comes from donations.
Thanks for reading!