Arc engages special needs community

Published 7:01 pm Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Arc of Beaufort County continues its mission of promoting advocacy and education for those with mental and physical challenges.

Around 50 years ago, a small group of residents came together to build an organization to provide mental and physical stimulation for their special needs children, according to Sandra Buckman, director of the Arc.

“They said, ‘Our kids can’t sit home everyday and do nothing,’” Buckman said. “They were the beginning pilgrims that started all this.”

Since, Buckman said the Arc has implemented programming and services that promote inclusion of those with special needs in the community—an example, partnering with the Special Olympics. This allows special needs athletes to compete in sporting events, which, in turn, helps to enhance the health and self-esteem of  participants and builds sportsmanship, discipline, independence and friendships. The Beaufort/Hyde chapter hosts its spring games annually and sends representatives to the state games each summer. At the spring games, the Arc serves lunch to over 300 athletes and volunteers.

The nonprofit also regularly partners with other organizations in the community that have similar missions of special advocating for the best life possible for those with special needs, Buckman said.

The Arc focuses heavily on education, ranging from seminars on guardianship, wills, life estate planning and more, to providing information about screening services for newborn babies and children that may have intellectual challenges or developmental delays such as autism, Buckman said. It offers help to parents in the development of their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) for children in the special education system and works with the public school system to help provide needed equipment and materials for special education classrooms.

At Christmas, the nonprofit tries to fill the gap for special needs people in group homes who have limited or not very involved family by visiting and buying gifts for them, according to Buckman. Throughout the year, it provides funding for furniture and other items needed by residents of group homes and apartments, as well as helping with transition from one living situation to another.

The organization focuses on membership annually, not only to promote interest in volunteering and expanding its offerings, but also to raise money through membership fees to help finance its programs and services, Buckman said.

“A lot of people don’t understand what the Arc is doing,” Buckman said. “Membership gives us an opportunity to know who cares about special needs people. It also helps us financially. I think of it as investing into the life of someone. It’s not just being a member, but investing in the people of our community in a special way. Our main goal is always advocacy so that people may secure the most appropriate and needed services available. As we help our individuals through self-advocacy, they become more independent and inclusive members of our community.”

Nina Buckman, a special needs member of the Arc who also volunteers, has been on both sides of the spectrum. She constantly encourages others in the community with special needs to get involved in Special Olympics and other activities that are offered. And in several situations, Nina has shared her testimony of what it’s like to grow up with Down’s syndrome and the challenges she has faced and overcome, she said.

“I volunteer because I have a heart to help people in need and who have disabilities,” Nina Buckman said. “I want to help them overcome their disabilities.”

The Arc of Beaufort County is located at 1534 W. Fifth St. in the Beaufort County Developmental Center’s administrative offices building. For more information or to get involved, call Sandra Buckman at 252-946-0151.