(Locator: Tampa Palms, Florida)
For a few hours on one Saturday every month…
“You gonna be good…be good for Mama.”
…Janet McDonald leaves her daughter, Nicole and son, Dougie, here at St.
James United Methodist Church.
Janet McDonald/ Mother of Autistic Children: “When you have children
with disabilities, nobody wants to get involved. This means everything.”
She has 7-year-old triplets. Two of them are autistic. At the
Nathaniel’s Hope Buddy Break program, her kids and other special needs
children are paired with volunteers for three hours of play time.
There’s music and pets and it’s even okay to make a mess.
“I think we have enough shaving cream.”
Sally DePalma runs Buddy Break in Tampa. She understands these families
better than most. Her daughter is autistic.
Sally DePalma/Buddy Break, St. James United Methodist Church: “Here at
Buddy Break, we don’t treat the children any different than any other
child. We love on them. We have fun with them. We accept them for who
they are and where they’re at.”
It’s been tough for Janet who became a single mother a year and a half
ago when her husband died from a pulmonary embolism. When she watches
her children with their buddies at St. James, she knows she has a
support system again.
Janet McDonald/Mother of Autistic Children: “This is the first time I
don’t feel embarrassed. I feel that they’re welcomed.”
And at least for a little while, this mom gets a break.
Janet McDonald/Mother of Autistic Children: “Last time, I went to lunch
for the first time in two years. I sat there in a restaurant and
actually ate! It was fun!”
The Buddy Break program is available at no charge for families and it
offers free activities and getaways for the parents and siblings of
special needs children.
For more information, call Sally DePalma at
813-971-4790 ext. 234 or check out
church Web site.