The Twelve Days of Giving – Day 6

Matthew McNally, Staff Writer

Organization: Partners Club

Partners Club Sponsors: David Thrift & Beth Raines

Community Service Project: Mentorship program

Q: Explain your community service project and tell me when it took place (or if it is yet to happen when will it take place …)

A: Thrift: “We do stuff throughout the year, but our big thing is our 5K run for Special Olympics. That happens in March, this coming year. We raise money for Special Olympics in our Partners’ Club too but we have that every year.  We also did a bunch of community service stuff last year.”

Raines: “We made some trail mix, ‘Puppy Chow’ and took it down to the police officers.”

Thrift: “The big thing for Partners’ Club is that they do stuff for the Special Olympics throughout the year, and raise money for the Special Olympics, like pretty soon we’ll be doing polar plunge for partners and anyone else who wants to do it. They raise money for the whole state of Arkansas’ Special Olympics. Not just Alma kids.”

Raines: “That helps pay for food and boarding down there also. Our 5K run money also gets used to buy shoes for the kids, clothes. If they need a coat, we buy them a coat.”

Thrift: “And when we go to State, we take a lot of money so they can go out and eat and do things that they normally wouldn’t get to do here.”

Raines: “We purchase personal items too, like deodorant and shampoo and things like that, for some of the kids that need it.”

Q: In reference to the 5K, why did you choose this particular project/activity for your club to be involved in?

Thrift: “We started that about 15 years ago, we got together and asked about how we can raise money, and we knew some people who were running and came up with a 5K and we just started from there and raised our money that way.”

Q: How do you think the students in your club benefit from participating in community service?

Thrift: “Well, they get to know and work around kids that they normally wouldn’t get to normally work around, you know, Special Olympic athletes and get to know that they’re just like anybody else, they just have a disability and they get to get experience and some of them decide ‘Hey maybe I want to go into this field’ and it’s just rewarding to take them and let them watch them win medals and how the kids react, so they get to experience the kids reactions. And they get to know other kids from around this area because we compete against several schools and work with other athletes from several schools and when we go to state there’s a lot more.”

Q: How did students react to giving their time/efforts to others?

Thrift: “Most of them want to do it. I mean you get some that manage to get out of it. But every year, we have a few of them ‘When’s the next event?’ I mean they want to help the athletes.  They want to help these kids participate.”

Raines: “Several of them come by here, by the classroom and check in with us.”

Thrift: “What we’d really like to see is our kids, and Arkansas is pushing to have a lot of kids unified, like right now we are doing unified volleyball, and soon we’ll be doing unified basketball, ‘cause they’re wanting more interaction with regular education kids and special education athletes so they can get to know each other and we’ve got some partners who go out of their way to help. They volunteer in our rooms, and sign up as student aides.”

Raines: “And some of them are out of school, they help the kids out of school, not just in our room. At other events, out in the community they help the kids.”

Q: How did the special education kids react to involvement by regular education students?

Thrift: “They enjoyed it. They like people to come up and socialize with them.”

Raines: “The more interaction they have with regular education kids, the more normal they feel.”

Thrift: “They learn how to do things appropriately. Like right now, one of the boys sits with a bunch of kids and they may goof off, but he’s learning how to act, and that’s what we want; we want them to act socially, whether it be at the school or when they go out into town. And when we take them out, we expect them to act a certain way.”

Raines: “We just hope they’re learning the right social skills.”

Thrift: “And most of the Partners, they’ll correct them if they’re acting up. They know how to treat them with respect, but if they’re messing up they’ll say ‘Hey, that’s not how we act.’ Our athletes enjoy them coming in here, and vice versa, I think the Partners enjoy working with them.”

Raines: “And a lot of the athletes will listen to their Partners more than they’ll listen to us, as teachers.”