Athens Parent February 2018

Page 26

big hearts


By Laura Whitaker


Two things happened to me recently – my son was cast in a play and my daughter entered into her first ballet class. It’s those moments that make your heart swell as a parent. They seem like such simple moments, but they are our moments – opportunities for my children to perform, grow in their confidence and refine the little people they are now who turn into the big people they will become. Then it hit me. While I’m experiencing these proud parent moments, parents of kids of all abilities will be having their moment. Because of ESP 360, no child is turned away from after-school activities: dance, theater, art, swimming, cheerleading, karate, volunteering, crafting and sports. Just six years ago, our after-school program became a reality. Since then, hundreds of children and their parents have had their proud moments, many for the very first time. While I loved Extra Special People’s (ESP) mission when I started volunteering as a college student 14 years ago, I have fallen in love with our mission many times over since becoming a parent. As a UGA student studying special education, I learned how to create programming specifically for children of all abilities. But what we’ve created at ESP is the chance for every child to experience the thrill of after-school activities that are catered to their interests, not just their needs.

26 Athens-Oconee Parent

They deserve the learning, experiences and memories that every child has, and ESP has made that possible. On February 10, children and adults of all abilities will take the stage. They have practiced, rehearsed, planned and dreamed. Like others who have stepped out from behind the curtain to show off their talents, ESP participants will do the same. This night,“Big Hearts” is their opportunity to shine. And it’s our community’s chance to shine a spotlight on the abilities of some of our most big-hearted individuals as they leave their disabilities in the wings. The work ESP does and the support we raise from the community creates moments

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