Created: Wednesday, 25 November 2015 16:23
Two fourth graders were elated when they decided to go to prom together in high school. Ben Moser and Mary Lapkowicz, eight years later, did exactly as they said they would and had an amazing time. Ben was the quarterback of the football team. Mary has down syndrome.
Ben and Mary were best friends in grade school, but were unfortunately separated when Mary’s family moved and she had to attend a different high school. Mary was attending Central Dauphin and Ben was at Susquehanna in Pennsylvania. But Ben remembered that he had promised Mary he would take her to prom when they were old enough.
As fate would have it, Central Dauphin and Susquehanna faced off against each other their senior year. Mary’s father was the coach of Central Dauphin, and so she would come along and help him run the team. It was at this game that Ben and Mary were reunited. Mary was just planning on going to prom with some friends, having forgotten the promise Ben and she made.
Ben enlisted the help of some of his family and friends to ask Mary to prom. He put together a bunch of balloons that said “Prom?” on them and brought them over to her house. She was so excited and immediately said yes. Both of their families were so happy to see a childhood promise come to life in high school, and they had an amazing time together.
Ben and Mary continue to see nothing particularly extraordinary about their relationship and simply see each other as friends with whom they enjoy spending time. Even still, it is great to see a childhood promise come true between two friends that rise above the social norms.
Created: Monday, 26 October 2015 15:51
It takes a special person to donate their time and energy to a good cause without expecting anything in return. This quality is embodied by the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews. Earlier this month, Toews traveled to West Ridge in Chicago with the Stanley Cup. The place he visited was Misericordia Heart of Mercy, a facility that cares for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Most of these people are in conditions that prevent them from attending events like the Blackhawks Rally and Stanley Cup showings. Due to this, #19 decided he was going to bring the fun to them.
The Misericordia residents were only told that they would be enjoying a Blackhawks rally with the mascot. Although they were very excited to see the Stanley Cup, they were beyond elated when Jonathan Toews walked into the facility carrying the coveted trophy.
This is not a new thing for Toews, as he has visited Misericordia many times prior of his own accord. He spent time speaking with the residents at the rally, and afterward toured the facility to meet with residents who were unable to physically come. One resident even painted a picture of Toews, for which the captain was incredibly grateful.
The best part about Toews’ visits to Misericordia is that he isn’t there for the publicity or the cameras. He comes on his own personal time without pay, and genuinely interacts with residents and gets to know them.
A spokeswoman for Misericordia told DNAinfo Chicago, "He's a superhero to our residents on and off the ice. He was so compassionate and so caring to all of our residents, but especially those that were most vulnerable, that have special needs. And he wasn't playing for the camera — he was sincerely interacting with them."
Meggie Cartina, nurse at Misericordia, said about the event, "Toews is one of the only big sports stars that visits Misericordia. He is so genuine and takes the time to visit all the residents. Many of our residents can't walk or speak, but he tries to communicate with everyone."
Enjoy some of these pictures from his visit to Misericordia. And you can watch the captain lead the Blackhawks in their next game tonight at 7pm against the Minnesota Wild. Go Hawks!
Created: Friday, 28 August 2015 16:02
You probably already know from FIG's previous newsletters that we like to stay heavily involved with charities and volunteer work. Giving back to the community is a quality that we all hold very highly in our hearts. That's why we came to the conclusion that it was time to get involved in a project set to truly improve the quality of life for many families across Chicagoland.
Families with special needs are unfortunately limited from doing so many things. With Chicago being a wonderful place for events and festivals all year round, it is unfortunate that people with special needs are often prevented from attending. Southside Support is working to fix the problem.
Perhaps the most prevalent issue with bringing a special needs person to an event throughout the city is the lack of a safe place. There can be thousands of people at any random event, and it can get quite loud and crowded in a short period of time. This causes the guests with special needs to become nervous or agitated, and more often prevents them from enjoying the activity at hand.
Southside Support is working on bringing a SNAZ trailer to every event in Chicago. SNAZ (Special Needs Accommodation Zone) is a special trailer that provides a safe space for these people. Every SNAZ trailer offers accommodations for feeding needs, changing diapers or clothes, calming tantrums, and reducing noise and crowding. With a dedicated space for dealing with these situations, special needs guests are given the freedom to experience these events in their entirety. What a truly wonderful thought.
At FIG, we see this as a beautiful and necessary addition to our city. Therefore we have made it our personal goal to get this project funded and implemented as soon as we can. You can help us do that.
To learn more about Southside Support and SNAZ, visit their website here.
Created: Thursday, 25 June 2015 14:43
One of the most incredibly inspiring sights you might see is hundreds of special needs competitors giving it their all at the Special Olympics. The FIG team had the absolute pleasure of witnessing this sight first-hand earlier this month. On June 12th, we departed our Schaumburg office bright and early to head down to Illinois State University in Normal where the Olympics were being held. Our assigned volunteer slot was at the Standing Long Jump station. Larry and Stephanie were in charge of gathering the selected heat of athletes and bringing them to their stations. Shawn then helped them get in line and prepare them for their jump. After they jumped, Sean marked where they landed and Ryan tracked their distance. Then Larry and Stephanie would bring them over to win their awards.
As much as we wanted things to be perfect for the athletes, the weather did not want to cooperate. The games were delayed for two hours due to heavy downpours and lightning. However it was truly amazing to see these great people unaffected by the weather, hopping right back out onto the fields to continue the competition.
The athletes, generally grouped by age, ranged from seven years-old to middle and older aged. Some of them wanted us to do loud countdowns and boisterous cheering, and others wanted complete silence and focus, pointing at us and demanding “Zip!” for us to be quiet. No matter how different each athlete’s preparation, they all had something in common: They were so happy to be there together and competing.
We had the chance to see old friends reunite and new friendships being formed. We even got a few great high fives and some big hugs. If you have never been to a Special Olympics event before, we all highly recommend going and volunteering. It was a day that we will never forget, and it really can help you to see the light in a society that may sometimes seem very dark.
Created: Tuesday, 19 May 2015 18:28
“Most of us think that going fishing is as easy as a walk down to a lake...for over 56 million Americans with disabilities, it’s just not that easy.” This is the line from Fishing Has No Boundaries’ website, a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities experience outdoor activities through fishing trips.
FHNB is stationed in Hayward, Wisconsin and has been around for almost 30 years. Bobby Cammack, the founder, broke his leg and found it incredibly difficult to do one of his favorite activities – fishing. He decided to create Fishing Has No Boundaries to help other Americans that might have conditions from which they are unable to recover.
Since 1986, FHNB has grown to 11 different state chapters with thousands of participants and volunteers at over 26 events throughout the year.
The organization gathers participants and volunteers from all over for these events. They have created multiple conventional systems to make the task of fishing easier for all kinds of disabilities. They start the events with instructions on how to use these tools to fish making sure everyone finds the most comfortable and accessible way to enjoy the day. Then they are out to fish and have good conversations while enjoying the outdoors.
Fishing Has No Boundaries is also sponsored by many other companies including but not limited to Bassmaster, Lions Club International, and MillerCoors. The team at Facility IT Group has a special place in their hearts for FHNB. With many of us at FIG having an affinity for the outdoors and volunteering, we encourage everyone to look up this organization and support them in any way that you can as we have in the past.
Created: Tuesday, 05 May 2015 13:38
Earlier this month, the team at Facility IT Group took a trip to O’Hare Airport to volunteer alongside the USO. There we helped the USO transport disabled veterans. Vets were flying in from all over the country to O'Hare, and then transferring out to Colorado where they would compete in fun winter games together.
The USO does this transition every year and we wanted to help. We assisted veterans with conditions ranging from blind to paraplegic off their planes and took them to a cordoned-off area with food and drinks while they waited for their next flight. While waiting, we talked with these amazing men and women about their lives, service, and plans.
This was truly an incredible experience, and we met some inspirational people. There were vets from the Korean War all the way to the Iraq War, and even a gold medalist from the handicapped Olympics. It was great to see these people bond with one another and share their stories.
While each FIG member met multiple people, I had a great conversation with a man named Clint. Clint served in the Korean War as an officer’s assistant in the Air Force. Over the years he began to lose his sight, and is now partially blind. However he has not let his condition get the best of him. He shared that he is a musician and plays piano at his church and in a few bands that perform in Holland, Michigan. Clint made it very clear how important the USO is in volunteering for veterans. He told me that we will never know just how great it feels to see people giving up their time to aid veterans, and how much they appreciate it.