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You ‘Can Do’ so they will be able to

  • Written by Deborah Stone
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Last year’s Can Do 5K/10K netted $14,000 for Northwest Special Families. Courtesy photo.
It’s time to lace up those walking or running shoes and hit the pavement for a good cause. The Can Do 5K/10K event is billed as "not just a race, but a celebration of inclusion," benefitting Northwest Special Families (NSF), a program of the Center for Human Services, and the Northshore YMCA.

Last year, the event drew about 1,200 participants and netted approximately $14,000. This year, race organizers hope to attract 1,500 – 2,000 people.

"It’s the first time we are partnering with the Northshore Y with regards to the event," says Amy Young, a member of Northwest Special Families. "The money raised will be used to pay for our current programming, as well as contribute to the Can Bike Camp and Summer Pals at the Northshore Y. The Y will use the funds for their Partnership in Youth Campaign and to develop inclusive programming at their facility."

Northwest Special Families, a program of The Center for Human Services, is a parent-led community of families that have children with special needs. It was started in 2004 and conceived by parents of children who were "graduating" from the Northshore School District special education preschool.

The families, who had all forged bonds through the preschool’s parent group, did not want to lose these invaluable connections as their children moved on to different elementary schools. Joining the parents in creating the organization was a dedicated special education teacher.

The group quickly expanded beyond the boundaries of the district and over the years it continued to grow, both in numbers and geographically.

Today, it consists of about 100 families with special needs children, ages preschool through sixth grade, who live in King and Snohomish counties. They participate in a variety of different activities which extend to the whole family, serving moms, dads, caregivers and siblings.

Ongoing programs include parent dinners, sibling get-togethers, moms’ spa nights, family recreational outings and LEGO® Club, a facilitated playtime for children with or without disabilities, siblings, friends, grandparents and neighbors, structured around building with LEGOS®.

There are also seasonal events, such as Special Santa, where families are able to have a one-on-one visit and picture with Santa, who has experience with children with special needs.

And then there’s the Can Bike Camp. "It’s part of a national program called Lose the Training Wheels," says Young.

"The mission is to teach individuals with disabilities to ride conventional two-wheel bikes and become lifelong independent riders. This achievement, in turn, creates a gateway of opportunity, helping them gain assurance and self-reliance in many other aspects of their lives." She adds, "That’s really what NSF is all about ... Essentially, we are providing a training ground in the community to create a successful independent future."

Last summer, the organization, along with the Center for Human Services and the Northshore YMCA designed and implemented Summer Pals, a pilot full-inclusion program for nine children who live with disabilities. Each of these kids attended summer camps alongside their typical peers with the aid of a full time social facilitator. The facilitators helped to create an inclusive atmosphere and make the camp a successful and meaningful experience for the children with disabilities.

"Our vision was to bridge the gap that exists between young people with special needs and the world around them," explains Young. "And we were pleased to see this vision realized."

"NSF’s only annual fundraiser is the Can Do 5K/10K. New this year is a wheelchair 5K and a youth 1K, for grades 1-6. Participants can enter as individuals, families or teams. "It’s a really fun event," says Young, "and I encourage everyone to come out and join us."

Northshore YMCA volunteer coordinator Katie Nelson adds, "We are really excited about the race this year and our new partnership with Northwest Special Families. It’s an opportunity for us, not only to raise money for our Partners with Youth Campaign and to expand our programming for families with special needs, but to enhance the Y’s visibility and make people aware of the services we provide to all in the community."

What: Can Do 5K/10K: Benefiting Children with Special Needs

Presented by Woodinville Pediatric Dentistry and Brooks

When: Saturday, March 26

Where: Seattle Times North Creek Facility in Bothell

For registration information: www.CanDo5K.org or contact Betsy at (206) 355-5915

For event-related volunteer opportunities, contact Katie Nelson at (425) 318-8025

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