By Debra Garcia
Every day, people with special needs, young and old alike, look for directions and ways to improve their lives, as it can be very difficult for them. This is where the Down’s syndrome awareness group FRIENDS (families, respect, inspiration, education, networking for Down’s syndrome and special needs) comes in, and it needs help.
Since 2014, FRIENDS General Manager Ann Foyt has done everything to help the group raise funds for an activity center for adults with Down’s syndrome. This way they have a place to work and learn to be more independent.
He’s been trying to fundraise for a potential center for some time now. During the last football season, volunteers worked at the Raymond James Stadium, and they will continue to do so for the coming season. Managed by Jeff Green and Paul Foyt, a concession stand is managed on the third floor. Adult members have worked alongside volunteers, raising funds and gaining work experience, which helps them later in life.
Funds are also raised by organizing farmers’ markets in the spring and fall and by organizing fundraisers. Most recently, FRIENDS hosted their first annual B Street Shoot-Out at the FishHawk Sporting Clays. Later this month, there will be a Coach brunch and bingo. All the money raised will go to the AMIS activity center.
FRIENDS does not only organize events for adults in need, but also for children. Thanks to its many partners, it has many programs to help children as much as possible.
“We Rock the Spectrum is helping us deliver our Baby FRIENDS playgroup from birth to 5 years old. Livingstone Academy allows us to organize our adult fun evenings and family game nights. For our after school specials they visit April LaCava’s [Hold] Our horses in Valrico. For Pinellas, we partnered with ResCare to host an adult dance in Clearwater, ”said Foyt.
AMIS also partners with Outback Bowl, Ken Brownlee of Brownlee Group / Keller Williams Realty, Caspers Company, American Metals Supply, AR Savage & Son, Marine Towing of Tampa, Tampa Bay Pilots Association, Ross Spano Law, Fidelity National Title, Hitchcock Law Group and Runnels Insurance, all of which help raise funds and promote the hub of activity.
AMIS needs an activity center in the Brandon area as soon as possible.
“A cafe, tea room or ice cream shop would work fine. We just need a place, ”Foyt said.
To volunteer with FRIENDS, complete an application at www.friendssupport.org or visit their Facebook page @FRIENDSWESTFLORIDA for more information.