Union County 4-H’s Annual Exceptional Children’s Party Spreads Holiday Cheer to Youth and Volunteers
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The holiday season is a time to share with others the gift of cheer and happiness. This is exactly what Union County 4-H did when they hosted the Exceptional Children’s Party in partnership with the Union County Public Schools. This year’s party invited 132 exceptional children, who are identified as children with disabilities, to participate in making crafts, playing games, and enjoying festive snacks together.
Volunteers young and old, ranging from Union County 4-H club members and parents to Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Union County, gave a few hours of their time to either facilitate the crafts and games or buddy up with one of the exceptional children to take them to the different stations at the party.
The youth had a great time making paper Christmas trees, snowman necklaces, and reindeer candy canes at the party as well as dancing around to holiday music. A treat of popcorn and snow cones brought smiles to the children’s faces.
“The Exceptional Children’s Party started more than 20 years ago, and it gets better every year. The event would not be possible without the help of the volunteers, 4-Hers, and club leaders who believe in the purpose of the event,” 4-H Agent Crystal Starkes said.
In addition to providing the children with crafts, games, and snacks at the party, Union County 4-H also packed goodie bags for the youth to take with them which included items donated by 4-H clubs and community members. Union County Farm Bureau donated Chick-Fil-A gift cards to the guests.
The volunteers serving as buddies with the youth were eager to learn about their buddy and share with them all the fun activities to do at the party. One of the main goals of the Exceptional Children’s Party is to bring together 4-H youth and youth with disabilities in an inclusive environment.
“There needs to be more inclusivity in every spectrum and these parties are a start in the first direction,” said volunteer Larry Keeter. “We all have things we can learn from these youth.”
In this humbling and heartwarming experience, everyone involved can get into the holiday spirit. At the party, the exceptional children can let loose and have fun in a welcoming and warm environment free from judgment or limitations.
“This event changes lives,” Starkes said. “Not only of the exceptional children but the lives of the 4-Hers who volunteer at the event.”
Union County 4-H participates in service events throughout the year, so if you would like to get involved with other service activities with Union County 4-H, please contact the 4-H Office at 704-283-3735 or 704-283-3740.