Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County is thrilled to announce a new partnership with Loveland Center that will ensure children with special needs have increased access to high-quality youth development opportunities this summer. The “We Belong” program, which was launched in 2017 by local Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Teacher Lindsay Goffinet, is an inclusive 8-week program for children with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities that fosters a love for learning, builds independence and celebrates diversity in a safe, supportive environment.
“Loveland is proud to partner with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County in order to expand the We Belong summer program,” said Patrick Guerin, president and CEO of Loveland Center. “This partnership embodies both our missions and is a stepping stone to building a more inclusive community for future generations.” The We Belong program is led by certified teachers and youth development professionals at the Robert and Joan Lee Boys & Girls Club in Venice.
“The We Belong program exists as a response to a need I discovered in our community 4 years ago,” said Goffinet. “I created the We Belong program to encompass an environment where children with exceptionalities would be accepted. With the support of Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County that goal came to fruition, and now with the added support of the Loveland Center, we will be able to continue it for years to come,” said Goffinet.
“All children, regardless of abilities, need programs that empower them to reach their full potential,” said Bill Sadlo, President/CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County. “Thanks to our partnership with Loveland Center, our future leaders will continue to discover their unique abilities and talents to make a meaningful difference in our community.”
With lead expansion support from Loveland Center, children in the program participate in a variety of enrichment opportunities each day that strengthen social skills, independence, communication and confidence through educational activities, interaction with peers and weekly occupational, speech and music therapy.
“This inclusive opportunity will set the stage to educate the younger generation to shed stigma surrounding individuals with disabilities and allow others to see them for all they can be,” said Guerin. “So often, individuals with disabilities are judged based on their perceived disabilities and unfair limitations are set on them, as opposed to allowing them the opportunity to experience all that life has to offer.”
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