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New beginnings for Special Connections

Published: Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
Pictured is the executive director of Special Connections with the board of directors. Front row: Executive Director Kelly Thompson, Kristie Witte, Kate Ross and Jennifer Price. Second row: Stephanie Kessler, Monica Vogel, Val Frazier, Jeremy McNabb and Jeff Rzasa. Back row: Kelly Dransfeldt and Dave Bzdill. Not pictured: Susan McNabb

MORRIS – Special Connections, of Grundy County, a local organization that supports individuals with disabilities, has begun the new year with some exciting changes.

The Special Connections Board of Directors recently has welcomed three new directors, Dave Bzdill, Val Frazier and Monica Vogel to the organization. Each new director brings their own unique experience in working with nonprofits and individuals with disabilities.

Special Connections has also hired a part-time executive director to lead the organization. Kelly Thompson, a former Special Education teacher in Grundy County for 14 years, vacated her position on the Special Connections Board of Directors to take the new position.

“It’s been a dream of mine since I taught in Grundy County to bring an organization like Special Connections to our area. In my teaching, I saw a real need for recreational opportunities and social activities for individuals with disabilities outside of the school setting,” she said in a news release. “I’ve been a part of Special Connections from the beginning and I’m very excited about the direction our organization is headed. We want 2014 to be a year of growth in programs and activities, number of volunteers and number of individuals we serve.”

In 2013, Special Connections offered seven different Special Olympics sports for athletes to participate in bowling, swimming, individual skills basketball, team basketball, track and field, bocce and golf, as well as two social activities. For the past two summers, several families, headed by Larry and Sue Tarman, donated their time and pontoons to give rides to the Special Connections participants on Lincoln Lake in Morris. They also provided games and food for the participants.

In October, Special Connections hosted its’ annual Halloween Costume Party at Chapin’s East in Morris. More than 100 individuals have participated in one or more of these activities.

In 2014, those same sports and activities will be offered with the addition of several new activities.

“We’ve added a board game night, karaoke night, family picnic and arts and crafts activity to our calendar and have a few other opportunities we are exploring. We’re also very excited about our new partnership with Trinity Services, an organization that supports people with disabilities that is new to Grundy County. We plan to work together to bring additional services to the area,” Thompson said in the release.

In order to make their events and activities happen, Special Connections depends on a wonderful group of volunteers.

“As our organization grows, we will depend on the continued support of our current volunteers, but we certainly would benefit from additional help,” Thompson said in the release.

Special Connections is planning a volunteer meeting in March to review policies with volunteers and discuss the calendar for the remainder of 2014. If interested in attending the meeting or for any additional information about Special Connections, contact Kelly Thompson at 815-545-3397, specialconnections1@gmail.com or visit its Facebook page or website at specialconnections.org.

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