“Our purpose and goal is to meet the needs of the children with special needs in the community, and help them have success in the future,” said senior MaryKate Riffle, president of the Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC).
SCEC is a student organization dedicated to assisting children with special needs. It partners with Kids First, the Sunshine School and the Social Work Club to help make a positive impact on the lives of children with special needs in the community. In the Spring, SCEC and Kids First will fill backpacks with school supplies for children in the community. What the SCEC is known for, however, is not their backpack donations or their help with the Polar Plunge and the Sunshine School prom, but their respite cares.
Once a month, SCEC hosts a respite care at Downtown Church of Christ for children with special needs and their siblings. Approximately 20-40 college students watch 20-30 children during each respite where children watch movies, play games and have snacks.
“It’s so much fun,” Riffle said. “I always look forward to it.”
Senior Mason Williams joined SCEC his sophomore year. Mason said he only attended the meetings the first semester he joined, but decided to volunteer for the respite cares his second semester. During one of the first respite cares, Williams met Kyle, a soon-to-be 7-year-old with whom he’s built a close friendship.
“There are special relationships that are created between the volunteers and the kids,” Riffle said, “especially between Mason and Kyle; they always play ‘spies.’ — I love seeing Kyle’s face whenever Mason walks in.”
“Kyle just loves (attending respite care),” Kyle’s father, Dr. Kevin Youngblood, said. “It never ceases to amaze me and impress me how well Mason does. Mason isn’t just interested in Kyle during respite nights, but in Kyle as a person.”
The Youngbloods hired Williams to help babysit Kyle at their oldest daughter’s wedding and now invite the college student to his birthday parties.
Williams said that at one respite, he decided to make Kyle’s night by playing a more elaborate game of “spies”—Williams hid a thermos that resembled a camera lens, and gave clues to Kyle so they could find and “defuse” the thermos “bomb.”
“I just can’t say enough good about the program, and how much good it does for us and couples like us,” Kevin Youngblood said.
Williams said that the children at respite nights are just like other children, save that they may require more attention at times.
“Just don’t be intimidated about their being children with special needs,” Williams sadid. “They’re just like any other child.”
For more information or to volunteer for the SCEC, email MaryKate Riffle at email@example.com.
“I feel like the group’s mission is to help children with special needs understand that they have so much meaning and value,” Riffle said. “God created them with purpose and to know that they are loved.”