Whole Children News

Seeking Interns for Fall 2016!

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Whole Children Intern

Intern Jack Kapinos working with director Matt Meers as they film a scene for Northampton Community TV’s “Crowdsourced Cinema.”

Are you a film or photography student looking to develop a portfolio of promotional videos and graphics? Are you interested in creating fresh media content in a diverse setting? Whole Children has a communications internship program that offers these opportunities and more.

Whole Children provides recreational, social, and enrichment programs for children and teens of all abilities, including those with special needs. As our communications intern, you will have the opportunity to work in an inclusive office space and assist in showcasing Whole Children’s community events, programs, and services.

Interns in the past have worked on a variety of projects, including video editing and camera work, photography, graphic design, drafting press releases, and creating content for our website and social media pages, to name a few. That being said…

We value your input! This internship is what you want to make it, so feel free to let us know if you have a specific interest you want to pursue, or a new skill you want to develop. We want your experience here to be productive and beneficial, and the best way to ensure that is by doing work that you are motivated to do!

The following video was produced by our fabulous intern, Jack Kapinos, pictured above!

Whole Children is conveniently located on the Route 9 bus route in Hadley, and is easily accessible from any of the 5 colleges. You may receive academic credit for the internship, and work hours can be arranged to fit your schedule.

If the Whole Children communications internship sounds right for you, email Courtney Dunham at [email protected]

Annual Dinner 2016

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The Association For Community Living’s Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony, 2016

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Whole Children photo booth fun at The Association For Community Living’s Annual Dinner.

Last night, The Association For Community Living held its Annual Dinner at The Log Cabin in Holyoke and, per usual, it was a delight. Whole Children had a number of exciting moments, including a performance by our theater group! Our students treated dinner guests to a dance mashup of some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s biggest hits. They were lead by instructor Matt Meers, who later on was fittingly honored alongside chorus director Nancy Janoson for their outstanding work as performing art teachers. Also among those honored was Ruth Wade for all of her hard and fruitful work in organizing Whole Children’s Wild Goose Chase. All of the awards were much deserved, and we are very proud of each recipient’s passion and dedication.

Each award was presented by Barbara Pilarcik, our beloved Executive Director who is sadly retiring in August. Since this was Barbara’s last annual dinner, she was introduced with a surprise rap performance from Brian Melanson and Chris Harper that brought smiles to everyone’s faces, most of all Barbara’s. After the rap, which detailed her many career accomplishments, Barbara treated everyone to a few dance moves of her own before taking the podium. All in all, it was a fantastic night and we’re already looking forward to next year!

Making the Invisible Visible: The Sprout Film Festival

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Sprout Banner for Website

Join us for a February film festival!

Whole Children and Five College Realtors will showcase a series of short documentary films from the Sprout Film Festival on Sunday, February 28 from 4-6 pm in the Cole Assembly in Converse Hall at Amherst College for a $5 suggested donation (to support Whole Children).

The Sprout Film Festival’s mission is “to inspire audiences, promote inclusion, and support transformative filmmaking as an integral part of social change.” All of the Sprout films highlight the lives and experiences of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. By embracing differences and encouraging acceptance, Sprout aims to “make the invisible visible.”

Come enjoy the films and stay afterward for an informal reception and discussion with local filmmaker, Ted White. White’s powerful film The Unexpected Gift: A Father’s Story, is one of six films being showcased at the film festival; it explores how the birth of his daughter with Down Syndrome ultimately transformed his family’s life for the better.

To take part in this meaningful afternoon of film, RSVP here

‘Tis the season of giving!

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giving treeIn the spirit of the holidays, we are trying something new out at Whole Children this year: a community giving tree! You may have seen it nestled in the corner of the lobby, decorated in little paper ornaments, tinsel, and gold ribbon.

The little paper ornaments on the tree have either gifts written on them that were requested by members in the community or an amount to be donated to a scholarship fund created for two different children that we serve here at Whole Children. We hope that you will all consider taking an ornament from the tree when you’re heading to class during the coming weeks, or donating directly to one of the scholarship funds! All gifts and donations are going directly to one of four Whole Children families.

Keep in mind: taking an ornament off the tree means you are promising to purchase and return the gift you chose to Whole Children by Monday, December 21st so we can then wrap the gifts in time to deliver them before Christmas!

If you don’t think you’ll be in to grab an ornament off the tree before December 21st, you can still support a family by calling 585-8010.

*ALSO…* REACH, a program of The Association For Community Living, is running a winter coat and toy drive. They are asking for people to donate clean, new, or slightly used coats, jackets, hats, gloves, scarves, boots, blankets, and toys to give to those in need this holiday season! The drop-off boxes for donations for both the coat and toy drive are in the lobby of the Inclusive Community Center. Note: items will only be collected until December 21st!

Thank you all again for your generosity throughout this holiday season; it’s the little things that make a big difference!

Thank you for letting me be myself!

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We are eagerly awaiting the debut of Once Upon a Bog, an original theatrical adventure of fantasy, fun and friendship. This upbeat show explores themes of acceptance and teamwork through some uplifting and toe-tapping song and dance.

This production of Once Upon a Bog is presented by the students of the Theater Studio program, one of the many inclusive performing arts groups at Whole Children. Under the direction of Jeannine Haas, the acting students have created this show together.

There are two shows: Friday March 20 at 7pm and Saturday, March 21 at 2pm at the Hallie Flanagan Studio Theater in Smith College. Tickets are $10 and can be bought here or at the door. All ticket sales benefit the scholarship fund. Whole Children shows are known to sell out fast so make sure to get your ticket soon!
For more information call (413) 585 8010 or visit www.wholechildren.org

Dispatches from the Caucasus

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By Carrie

Reporting in from Sheki, a city in northwest Azerbaijan, in the southern part of the Caucasus mountains.

It is incredible that in completely different cultures and completely different parts of the world, one thing that remains constant is that people love their children and families (mostly mothers) will do extraordinary things for them.

We visited a brand new Rehabilitation facility that was recently built by the government here.  It was impressive  – a kind of residential campus program that trains people in vocation.  People apply for 3-6 month stays.  Most of the people we saw were physically handicapped and had immense artistic or other talent.  We also saw the project done by the woman who said Alex inspired her.  She worked for a government funded facility that was beautiful.  She had the support of the Paralympic committee to start a National Bacchi championsParalympic Bocce team.  In the photo I’m with Zarina, the woman who created the project, Christy, a Professor from Springfield College that I’m traveling with, and the first and second place National Champions in Bocci.

The most amazing thing at this place was when Nate, a person in our group who works for Access Sports in Boston, took a man out of his wheelchair and helped him walk the length of the gym.  The man told us that when he joined the Bocci team, it was the first time he had been out of his house in 28 years.  It was also the first time he’d walked more than a few steps. (you can see Nate in the background of this photo taking a photo with the man)

Today we visited a Rehabilitation Center for children with disabilities in a neighboring city.  Although there was only one small room, it was beautifully decorated and the teacher was extraordinary.  Because it is the only center for five cities, space is a big challenge for them.  They serve 450 children in one small room.  In order to do this, they are open 8 hours per day and the group of kids change each hour.  Each group can come for one hour each week.  For most of them, it is their only schooling.  We got to meet them and exchanged information, so hopefully we can help with curriculum and other information and support in the future.

Spreading the seeds of the Whole Children love

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By Carrie McGee

Yesterday was an amazing day here.  First I went to a center that was so much like Whole Children.  It was started by a mother – who sold her house in two days to come up with the money – and then lived with her family in the center.  Her staff volunteer if she can’t pay them – which has been the case for the last two years.  The kids were amazing. At one point I just left the tour and stayed with the kids.

And there was this moment at the end when this women just hugged me and we were both crying — couldn’t speak a word to one another, but utterly understood that we had the same story.


Alex’s visit with the contingent from Azerbaijan continues to inspire.

Then, in the afternoon I attended a press conference where each person who came to the US showed what they learned and then what they did with it.  One person after another talked about how they saw that it’s not enough to have people sitting in a chair with one person working with them, and as a result of what they saw, they got the kids moving and interacting with one another.  They’re already seeing the secondary changes happening in the kids – that they are coming alive, speaking and engaging now.  One woman said, “We kept telling ourselves, if Alex and his Mom can do it, we can too.”

They now have a program that wasn’t there before, and she went through photo of kid after kid  – they were afraid to leave their house, their parents didn’t want them to participate at first, they were depressed – and then there were photos of them playing and laughing.

I am half way around the world and hearing from person after person that the tiny seed of a few people spending a couple hours with us at Whole Children is being planted over and over again. We’re so lucky to have the children we have, to have one another in the work we do, to live where we do, and now, to be part of something so much bigger than us.

Whole Children goes to Eastern Europe

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Dawn breaks in Baku

This past fall, Amherst’s Institute for Training and Development hosted a contingent of  coaches, physical education teachers, and disability workers from Azerbaijan — they were here to create programs for adapting sports for youth with disabilities back in their hometowns.

The group came here to Whole Children to see how we started a grassroots after-school organization for kids of all abilities. We had a wonderful visit with them and they loved seeing what we had done here.

Now, in the next phase, a crew of Americans, including our own founder, Carrie McGee, are in Azerbaijan to support the same group of educators in implementing plans to include people with disabilities in sports.

Carrie is going to write a blog so we can follow along on her adventures and learn about the emerging world of disability sports and inclusion in Eastern Europe.

The whole crew is also keeping a joint blog, and you can follow along here.


Learn About All the Learning at Whole Children!

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Ever wonder about a particular Whole Children class? Instructors from Friendship Band to Kung Fu are sharing the inside scoop about the wonderful courses they’re teaching in our newest videos (produced by our talented intern, UMass senior Courtney Dunham). Take a peek at normal class time and hear what the instructors love most about what they get to do.

This week we have uploaded videos on Friendship Band, Joyful Chorus and Social Skills but there are plenty more to come! Whether you’re curious about class time or you want to show family and friends what your kids are up to, these videos provide a unique glimpse of the all the action in Whole Children classes!

This week at Whole Children

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wizardssingFBThe nights are cool and the shadows are growing long, so summer is surely on the wane. But summer is still in full swing here at the Inclusive Community Center. The Theater Studio class is in the final days of the Trip to Oz workshop and we are looking forward to their performance Friday at 11:30 a.m.

The kids have been memorizing lines, learning dance steps, making costumes and creating the set for the show. From the bits we’ve seen, it’s going to be a high energy show, and is just a tantalizing glimpse into what’s to come in the spring when the full company dives into the show.

kungfukickFBMeantime, the gym is hopping with a group of young Kung Fu students, learning the basics of kicking, jumping, discipline, and so much more. Many of our students who start out working with Morgan and Amanda go on to take Kung Fu at Spirit of the Heart in Northampton, and some are even assisting in the classroom there. It’s not hard to imagine some of this crew of burgeoning Kung Fu masters following that same path.

Next week is the last week of summer programming, and it is going to be pure fun with swimming, hiking, fishing and even a trip to Westover Air Force Base.

Check our Facebook page for photos!