What We Do
Recently parents and caregivers from across the country were surveyed about their children with disabilities to determine the health, well-being and social inclusion of children, youth, and their parents. When asked about the quality and number of friendships their child had, parents reported that “one-third of the children have no friends, even at school, and over half the children have no friends outside of school.”
Now imagine that you have a place to go where you are welcomed, where your interests are considered and you experience fun and friendship. Imagine the surprise when you master something that you weren’t sure you could do and others cheer you on while you do it.
That’s what Between Friends is all about – a place to connect, a place to grow, a place to belong. Our mission is to ensure that people with disabilities have quality social, recreation and development opportunities…our vision is that people with disabilities will reach their individual potential and be recognized as valued citizens.
We take participants with every kind of disability – in fact we have 59 different medical diagnoses amongst our participants and over 1/3 are on the autism spectrum. Our youngest participant is 3 and our oldest 68.
For more than 35 years, Between Friends has been offering children, youth, and more recently adults with disabilities, a variety of programs that remove the barriers of isolation and truly function as the building blocks of friendship. We operate more than 130 programs in five program areas. We encourage inclusive program participation by offering program spaces for those who do not have a disability. Our vision is one of inclusion so that there are no barriers to participation within Between Friends and within the wider community.
We are most proud of the work that we do with the community to educate them about including people with disabilities, so that they may participate alongside their typically developing peers. Ah, for society to be inclusive…now wouldn’t that be something special.
We are also proud of the young leaders that we develop. Through our programs, our leaders and volunteers not only learn leadership skills, but they learn how to be accepting of others who may be just a bit different. We focus on ability rather than disability and we focus on similarities rather than differences. Our leaders grow and develop into teachers, speech language pathologists, doctors, psychologists, occupational and physiotherapists…and some of them even enter the oil patch!
The greatest accomplishment we can have is to have our participants develop their skills to the point that they can volunteer and even work for us…and we have a thriving Volunteer in Training program and a service club for adults with disabilities, where they can show off their skills and give back to others in the way that others have given to them all of their lives.