Grays Hill resident Patricia Green Simmons can't say enough about a new program of the Beaufort County Department of Special Needs.
She said the Breakers Program gives her 15-year-old son, Denzel Green, a chance to have fun with other special-needs children. She said Denzel, who has Down syndrome and other medical issues, loves the program.
"He's so happy and excited about it," Simmons said. "And so am I. He gets to be himself."
Funded by a grant from the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, Breakers gives people with intellectual or developmental disabilities a free opportunity to participate in fun activities three days a week while their caregivers get a break. The program is open to individuals ages 12 to 62 who are not currently receiving services from the department.
County Department of Special Needs director Mitzi Wagner said there are many special-needs individuals who do not receive services because of limited funding in South Carolina. This program gives them a chance to get the help they need.
The grant only funds the program through June, but Wagner said it's likely to continue through next year. Although the program only can serve 30 people now, she said the department will try to expand it for next year. Breakers currently has 20 participants, so organizers encourage those interested to contact the state department to find out whether they qualify.
"We're really excited that we can offer this to people," Wagner said.
Participants in the Breakers Program play games and sports, make crafts, sing, dance and more.
The group has taken outings to Pizza Hut, to the movie theater and to the Green Herring Art Gallery in Beaufort, where they did some of their own artwork.
With so many opportunities for them to go out into the community, the program's director, Bill Love, said Breakers accomplishes more than just providing fun for participants and a break for their caregivers. He said it also makes the community more aware of the special-needs population.
"I like the idea of the community being involved in this process, too," Love said.
And he said the public has been very accommodating. He commended the staff of Plaza Stadium Theatre in Beaufort and Green Herring Art Gallery for their help with recent outings.
Although the local program has only been around for a few weeks, Love is already receiving positive feedback from parents and caregivers of participants.
"I am truly pleased with the program," Simmons said. "It gives our children hope."