Children with special needs and BYU students spend Friday nights laughing and having fun while parents get the night off while their kids are at Friday’s Kids Respite.
BYU sophomore Andrew Starita, a Minneapolis native studying chemistry, didn’t expect to have so much fun volunteering for his first time at Friday’s Kids.
“All I have been doing tonight is making kids laugh and giving piggy-back rides non-stop,” Starita said.
According to the Friday’s Kids website, they are a nonprofit organization providing respite care to families who have children with special needs. On Friday and Saturday evenings, caregivers bring their children to Friday’s Kids while they enjoy some well-deserved time off. Volunteers from BYU and UVU can spend one-on-one time with children while parents get an evening to themselves.
“It’s hard trying to find a baby-sitter who knows my daughter’s needs,” said Christine McClellan, a mother of two daughters. “I feel safe knowing that there is a nurse at Friday’s who knows my daughter personally.”
Friday’s Kids offers her family time to spend together.
“Being a full-time caregiver requires a break, and it’s good for a marriage,” McClellan said.
When asked what her and her husband were going to do with their other daughter that night, she responded, “We might go hiking.”
Friday’s Kids Respite was co-founded in 2001 by Diane McNeill and Kimber Dower. Diane McNeill’s second child was born in 1990 with Down syndrome.
“You love your child with special needs, but you need a break from caring for them 24 hours a day,” McNeill said.
Volunteers have the opportunity to make a difference and help family in the community.
“Even though volunteering three hours a week seems like a little thing, it makes a big impact,” said volunteer coordinator Sarah Motley, a graduate student studying neuroscience, from Cincinnati.
“You don’t think of yourself when you are volunteering, you think of the child you are working with,” McNeill said. “It’s a completely selfless service.”
First-time volunteer Melanie Crane, a senior studying dietetics, from Overland Park, Kan., said she doesn’t like baby-sitting, but this experience wasn’t like anything she has ever done before.
“The children are so sweet and they have such a sweet laugh,” Crane said. “Time goes by fast, and you get to appreciate a different side of life.”
Friday’s Kids is always looking for more volunteers to take part in a life-changing experience.
“Volunteers leave a different person with a different perspectives,” McNeill said.