A group of dedicated parents have been working to provide more opportunities in Stokes County for children with special needs for the past four years.
“Groups of family members with individuals with special needs started coming together and realized there were no existing groups that helped support individuals with special needs in a social setting,” said Christy Ferguson, a board member of the non-profit group Inspire Stokes County. “We wanted to be a community in the county where people could get together and talk and help each other. We started with simple things like dances at community churches in Stokes County. Then we started spearheading parent meetings where parents could get together and roll things off of each other.
“Our initial focus was people with mental instability like Downs Syndrome and autism and all the spectrums along those lines,” she said. “A lot of times that merges over into physical needs which led us to where we are now.”
Inspire Stokes County is currently raising funds to build a special needs playground at Germanton Park, planing to start with equipment that will allow children in wheelchairs or with other physical issues to have a chance to swing.
“We picked Germanton because the layout of the park made it more feasible to put the equipment in, but also because not only Stokes County individuals, but also northern Forsyth County people use it,” Ferguson said. “It is a very highly visited park.
“We are starting simply,” added Ferguson. “We will have a wheelchair accessible swing and a full body support swing. We are hoping that with additional funding we will be able to add more components. We would like to get more sensory items in there as well.”
The equipment would be the first of its kind in Stokes County, providing families with special needs children an opportunity to let their children go to a park without having to drive to Forsyth or Guilford county.
She said the group is estimating that the special swing set will cost a total of $10,000 and notes that the group has raised $4,000 toward that goal over the past three years.
“The goal is to get the swing installed toward the end of spring,” she said, adding that Inspire Stokes County is holding a fundraising bike ride this weekend, on Aug. 29, to work toward that goal. “It is going to be be taking a route from Our Place Tavern south through Rural Hall, up Old 52 in to Pilot and then back down Hwy. 268.”
She said registration for the bike ride costs $10 and includes a BBQ plate supper, raffle, 50/50 and live auction at Our Place starting at 5 p.m. The bike ride starts at 12:30 p.m.
“We have NASCAR items, artwork and even wine baskets and wine trips that have been donated by local people that will be auctioned off,” she said. “I have been unbelievably lifted by all of the support from the county and the community.”
Ferguson said the auction and BBQ dinner is open to people who may not want to participate in the bike ride, noting that plates will cost $10.
“If people want to get plates to go they can call ahead at 591-8258,” said Ferguson, adding that if people want to make a tax-deductible donation to Inspire Stokes County they can send checks, addressed to Inspire Stokes County, to P.O. Box 866, Walnut Cove, NC 27052. “They can also call 591-5400 for more information.”
Ferguson said Inspire Stokes County will also be holding another fundraising event on Oct. 23 featuring the Tortuga Twins.
“You won’t want to miss the act as these guys pull in audience members to join their wonderfully dramatic, laugh-out-loud, tears-in-the-eyes cabaret,” said Ferguson. “Please keep an eye out for times and locations to be announced soon, or check out our Facebook page.”
Ferguson said that while Inspire Stokes County’s main focus right now was on raising funds for the new playground equipment, the group was continuing to hold community events for parents of special needs kids of all ages.
“We have a committee meeting the first Tuesday of each month and have parent meetings that are scheduled quarterly,” she said. “We also do an arts camp with the Stokes County Arts Council, do plays and plan dinner outings.
“At this point we are still a small group, but we are trying to get more support,” she added. “We have about 20 to 25 families or so that utilize us.”
She said any parents of children, no matter the age, with special needs looking for support should contact Inspire Stokes County, adding that the group is also looking for volunteers to help.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.