High school students came together to create a community event that welcomes and includes people with disabilities.
This summer was the inaugural New Friends “Walk for Friendship” sponsored by TLHA’s Jesus Cares Ministries and hosted by Manitowoc Lutheran High School (MLHS). The event’s focus was to join all New Friends program participants, community members and families to come
together to share Christ’s love and friendship, and that’s exactly what they did.
“I just wanted to have a day where teens can come together with families of special needs kids and to have a day full of fun and friendship,” said Caitlin Doro, a student at Manitowoc Lutheran High School and an active New Friends participant. “Some of these kids don’t get the chance to experience that.”
Pastor Thomas Meissner from MLHS started the walk with a beautiful
message of hope. The participants were of all ages and walks of life consisting of teenagers from different high schools, pastors from local congregations, families with special needs children young and old and their friends who came to support this wonderful cause.
There were also several games and activities people could participate in before and after the walk, including tie-dying t-shirts, bean bag games, beach volleyball, face painting, ring toss, and basketball.
Items donated from local businesses were auctioned off as door prizes. Everyone enjoyed themselves in a fun, relaxing and nonjudgmental atmosphere. The credit for the success of this event goes to the students who started it. They took it upon themselves to organize this event, including sending out flyers, getting sponsorships from local businesses, organizing the games and purchasing the prizes and t-shirts. The students wanted to make this an annual event for all of the JCM New Friends groups to come together to show support and inspire each other to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.
“I am so touched these teenagers would do something so positive for our kids,” shared a mother whose daughter has a developmental disability. “This walk gives me hope for my daughter’s future. To know people care about her and others with disabilities means a lot!”
The Walk for Friendship showed these families that they are not alone and there is help and support for them within the community. The groups that put this event together hope to continue sharing ideas to encourage each other, to share stories of inspiration and hope, and to start planning a Walk for Friendship for next year.