TRIKES FOR TYKES
GEORGIA KNIGHTS HELP SPECIAL-NEEDS STUDENTS TAKE A BREAK
Assisting persons with developmental disabilities has long been a priority of the Knights of Columbus. Blessed Mother Mary Council 15238 in Dawsonville, Ga., has been raising funds for the benefit of children with autism for several years, and recently began co-sponsoring the Dawson County Spring Games, an athletic competition for children with disabilities.
Still, the Knights wished to do more.
A council member who is a special education teacher proposed an idea. Community relations director Joe Hirsch made a few calls, and a plan was launched. At the beginning of 2018, the council set a goal of raising $10,000 to provide sensory rooms and recreational equipment for students served by the Dawson County Schools Exceptional Children Department.
They nailed that target and surpassed it. After furnishing trampolines, swings, bouncy seats, weighted vests, and other such items for sensory rooms at five county schools, the council presented school officials with yet another gift: tricycles specially built for those with special needs who require sensory breaks.
The colorful trikes are equipped with hand cranks, rotating seats, seat belts, and the means to strap a child in from the head down for safety. They are especially helpful for students with certain muscular or neurological disorders who are unable to use other sensory equipment.
Special needs students often require particular sensory input in order to help them settle down and focus. Sensory rooms provide therapeutic space and equipment for this purpose.
Most children need some kind of physical activity at intervals throughout the day in order to function best. Some special-needs children can’t participate in the same activities and yet still require some kind of active stimuli suited to them.
“Kids need sensory breaks,” Hershel Bennett, head of the Exceptional Children department, told the Dawson County News. “They have a ‘sensory diet’ to help them get through the day. … If you think about kids on the playground, every kid gets to be on a swing. It’s on every playground – merry-go-rounds, swings, movement things. Well, a lot of our kids can’t do that. They don’t get that sensory break during the day.”
With the Knights’ latest donation of tricycles, exceptional kids who need a break can simply “go down to the gym and do a couple laps, then come back,” Bennett said.
Deputy Grand Knight Thomas Gillespie gave much of the credit for the success of the fundraiser to the local Kroger supermarket, where for several weekends Knights and special-education teachers distributed brochures to shoppers encouraging contributions to the worthy cause.
“We’re just glad to be involved,” Gillespie said. “It’s been a wonderful, wonderful opportunity for all of us.”