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Adults with Special Needs find Friendship and Fun with Pioneer Club

Recreation program offers adults the chance to get together and make new friends.

For adults with disabilities, turning 21-years-old can leave them left out of many programs and activities that are geared towards younger members of the special needs community.  Once they leave school, their opportunities to socialize with other people can also become few and far between. 

However, in South Brunswick, the Pioneer Recreation Club makes sure that these individuals are not lacking for fun activities and new friends to meet.

"We meet once a month with special activities for these adults to enjoy," said Program Coordinator Nancy Messina.  "These are local activities that provide fun and socialization."

The club is open to South Brunswick residents age 21 to 55 with developmental and physical disabilities.  This program seeks to provide a social and support network, as well as an avenue to create friendships, Messina said.

"One of the things that's really great about this program is the socialization, not just with other participants who are like them, but with typical adults and kids who volunteer to help the program," Messina said.  "They work so well, hand-in-hand together, so it's a win-win situation for everyone involved."

Messina said the programs volunteers tend to get as much out of the Pioneer club as the participants, as they gain a new perspective.

"The adults and the children become more aware as they learn how to deal with the special needs population," she said.  "It teaches them to welcome everyone with open arms and you see these wonderful connections being made throughout town."

Messina said there tend to be two groups within the the Pioneer club.  Those who are members of the Citizens for Independent Living, who reside at the CIL Woods housing development, and those who live at home with their parents.

"The CIL participants are like a family because they already have this friendship and bond with each other," she said.  "But some of our participants who live at home, after they're not in school they may not know how to reach out and get together with their friends. So they look forward to seeing each other and making connections that last outside of the club events."

Messina said parents are typically less involved as their young children transition to adults, as opportunities for social activities tend to become more rare.

 "After they turn 21 a lot of services are just not there anymore," she said.  "Those who live at home can become isolated, so they look forward to bonding every month.  They see each other and start exchanging phone numbers because they just want to belong to a group and have friendship.   So what we're doing seems to be working."

The Pioneer Recreation Club is on the look for new participants and volunteers to join the program.  Most activities are free or very rarely involve a small fee for participation.  Activities include bowling, dances, movies, games and much more.  The program accepts volunteers as young as 12-years-old to be a buddy for these adults with special needs.

"They just love being with that age group and having fun," Messina said.  "Both get so much out of the interaction."

The Pioneer Club is hosting a Valentine's Day Dance at the South Brunswick Senior Center from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Feb. 18. A DJ will provide music and light refreshments will be served.  For more information on the Pioneer Recreation Club call 732-329-4000 ext. 7671.

Also, visit the township web site for more information on volunteering or joining the Pioneer Recreation Club. Click the Recreation tab, then click Programs and Activities.  

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