Adult social group 50 years strong

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By Joshua Rosario | Published Nov. 10, 2016

Every Wednesday throughout the semester, Kean Community Outreach Coordinator Ina White and a group of Kean student volunteers, host a social group for adults with developmental disabilities in the East Campus.

The members of the group are provided light refreshments paid by their membership fees. Th e volunteers play games with the members like Uno, arts and crafts, and many other planned activities. Some just hang out and talk.

“John Haffly Young Adult Social Group” or “Wednesday Night Adult Social Group” as it’s commonly known will be celebrating it’s 50th anniversary next year. According to White, it started out as a summer camp for kids with developmental disabilities.

“Some of the members have been here longer than I have,” said White.

White has been running this program for over 30 years. The group consist of 40 members, between the ages of 20 and 55.

“I treat them with respect, and as a person with a disability, I understand that’s not always the case. I try never to underestimate them,” said White, who had a spinal cord injury at birth making her paraplegic and developed a respiratory condition.

The volunteers mostly consist of members of Kean University Council for Exceptional Children (KUCEC).

“We both go hand and hand, it is not completely from KUCEC” said KUCEC Secretary Christina Manago, who is also studying special education. “We definitely promote Ina, give her support, and we try to get our KUCEC members to go to her, help her, and volunteer for her. So she can get her story out there and promote her group.”

The group is open to anyone who wants to volunteer. The volunteers said the members are always welcoming, and will never forget your face.

“I hope Kean will keep this going one way or another,” said White.

For those who don’t know how to speak with someone with a mental disability, third-year volunteer and KUCEC President Cynthia Torres, does not want you to be afraid and knows that you might feel intimidated.

“The second you sit down and actually talk with them you realize they are just like you,” said Torres. “They get up every day, they go about their day, and they do what they got to do. It is like talking to one of your friends.”

“They are so much more than their disability,” Torres added. “They all have such great personalities. They are wonderful people. They all have great things that make them so outstanding. Like Randy, he loves sport, you can talk to him about sports Yankees, baseball, basketball. There’s John who loves music and who no matter what room he walks into, he lights it up.”

This article has been corrected to reflect the proper term for developmentally disabled.

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