Rogers provides a special outlet

VOLUNTEER — Monica Rogers volunteers her time to provide activities for special needs children and adults so they can participate in society. One of those events was a Halloween party at the School of Bright Promise. -- Contributed

STEUBENVILLE — Monica Rogers has given local special needs people an outlet for fun while also helping them connect with their community.

Rogers, a native of Brazil who now resides in Wintersville, became actively involved with the developmentally disabled 10 years ago and said she enjoys it immensely.

“I started this because I’ve always been involved with special needs kids. I used to coach my twins in soccer with the Jefferson Kiwanis Youth Soccer Club and there was an outreach program for special needs kids and adults for exercise and activity. I was asked to coach one of the four teams and a lot were at the School of Bright Promise.”

She eventually was named JKYSC coordinator, but took things a step further when she learned there were no other activities available once the soccer season came to a close. She then looked for venues where they could play, which led to dances, parties and other events in Hammondsville. The first event drew 20 children, but these days the events attract about 80 kids and adults with disabilities.

She is no longer involved with the soccer program but continues to provide fun activities, including birthday parties, bowling and theme parties, as well as weekly dances at the Steubenville Country Club. During the winter, activities and parties are conducted each Friday at the School of Bright Promise and she also works with others to coordinate events.

Rogers works with Lisa Poole of Lisa’s Elite Dance in Wintersville, who opened her doors to provide dance lessons to special needs kids. Classes are $10 per month, and Rogers and others have sponsored some of the students. The program is now in its fourth year and the students also hold recitals to showcase what they have learned.

“I try to create activities for them to do to create independence, and I found a lot of people want to do things for special needs kids,” Rogers said. “We also had karate at West Academy and about eight to 10 people attended classes in Wintersville. We also have free monthly karaoke, sleepovers, movies and take art classes in Pittsburgh.”

Her hopes are to get kids more active at the school so they can become even more independent in the outside world.

“I just want them to be active and socialize. I am very passionate about it and want more things to be available to them in society,” she added, saying she shares many of the group’s events on her Friends with Special Needs Facebook page.

Rogers also has assisted School of Bright Promise officials on many occasions, including “Spread the Word to End the Word” discussions about references to developmentally disabled people at Pugliese West Elementary School in 2016. She noted she wants to hold an event where children could talk to special needs children, have hands-on lessons and socialize with them to understand that they are people too.

“These kids have taught me so much over the years and we should educate other young kids about compassion, inclusion and acceptance. Typical kids may not understand, but if you make an impact on 10 kids out of 100, they can carry that message. Otherwise, it’s just words.”