2022 sets stage for exciting future for special needs community in The Villages, FL

2022 sets stage for exciting future for special needs community in The Villages, FL

As 2022 came to a close for our special needs adult children and their families in and around The Villages, Florida, there was much to reflect on and many reasons to give thanks. Our special needs community was enriched in so many ways.

A number of existing clubs and programs continued to flourish and expand memberships, while providing numerous opportunities to have fun, enjoy social activities, deepen existing friendships and foster new ones. Best Buddies The Villages was one of many of the local clubs that flourished in 2022.

Best Buddies The Villages blossoms

Best Buddies The Villages saw rapid membership growth throughout 2022. We highlighted one of their events in November here, as they were special guests of The Villages British Motoring Club.

Best Buddies creates one-to-one friendships between adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) in the community (defined as a ‘Buddy‘) and adults without an IDD (defined as a ‘Peer Buddy‘). These opportunities for friendship and inclusion are especially important for adults with IDD, who often have limited opportunities for social connections as they age.

In addition, the club meets as a group every 3rd Wednesday of the month from 6:00pm-7:50pm at the Odell Recreation Center in The Villages. These monthly group meetings are filled with fun activities for our Buddies and create lifelong memories and friendships. In addition, our Buddies continue to organize social gatherings and events outside the monthly activity nights. This is their club, and their empowerment has created a truly wonderful opportunity for all the members!

Best Buddies activities continue to amaze

The last few months of 2022 really heated up in terms of ‘over the top’ events for the Buddies. October’s activity night featured Halloween fun for all, as the club members dressed in their own creative costumes. In November, the membership feasted on a huge turkey dinner spread while celebrating ‘Friendsgiving’. It was a beautiful evening!

To close out the year, December’s activity night featured none other than Scooter The DJ, a local talent known to all in The Villages and throughout Central Florida. Scooter is known for the high energy he brings and the fun he creates for his audience, as he gets them out on the floor to follow his ‘moves’ as the music plays to the many popular line dances. Scooter’s enthusiasm and big heart showed throughout, as our ‘kids’ were so thrilled he was all theirs for the evening!

There were so many special moments for Best Buddies The Villages during 2022. In addition to everything mentioned here, the Buddies also participated in The Villages Heritage Festivals in Brownwood and Spanish Springs, and carried their club banner proudly in The Villages annual Christmas Parade.

There are so many photos captured by our Buddies, and we share some of them in a gallery at the bottom of this article. For more information about how to become a part of this special club, whether as a Buddy or a volunteer, please contact them directly at bestbuddiesthevillages@gmail.com.

STAR was born in 2022

A new program also emerged in late 2022, which provided unique events for our ‘kids’ to create lifelong memories. The S.T.A.R. (Special Talented Adult Resident) program was introduced and sponsored by The Villages Recreation. The program is expected to grow throughout 2023 and offer a wide variety of classes, activities and one time events for our Villages special needs residents.

The very first S.T.A.R. class began in October 2022.  It’s a Water Aerobics class, which is held at 9am every Thursday at the Ezell Recreation Center Sports Pool. The instructor is the amazing Susann Reeves, a Pennsylvania native who taught children on the autism spectrum in South Florida before retiring in June 2020. Susann is passionate about what she does and is very engaging with everyone that joins her in the pool each Thursday morning. The water aerobics class is expected to run through late March 2023.

Bean Bag Baseball for the whole family!

In parallel, the S.T.A.R. program began to offer one-day, one-time events for the community. One such event was a Bean Bag Baseball game that took place in November inside a local recreation center in The Villages.

I must admit I had never heard of or witnessed a bean bag baseball game before, but it apparently is quickly becoming popular around the country as a fun indoor (or outdoor if preferred) game that people of all ages, physical capability or any skill level can play. Bases were set up, and ‘hits’ were awarded and ‘outs’ were counted based on what ‘hole’ your bean bag toss landed in on the board. It was a wonderful two hours for the entire group who participated, both parents and their special needs adult children alike!

As we entered the month of December, S.T.A.R. offered additional one hour weekly activities that included holiday related fun crafts, as well as floor hockey. The are a number of new classes and activities that S.T.A.R. will offer throughout 2023, and we are all so grateful for these amazing opportunities The Villages is providing for our adult ‘kids’!

You can learn more about S.T.A.R. here and see a short video as well.

Much to look forward to in 2023!

In so many ways, the future for our special needs adult children is exciting. And we feel we’re just scratching the surface of things to come. The Villages. FL community is indeed a place for our ‘kids’ to live their best lives. They are loved and supported by an incredible pool of volunteers that are so willing to lend their time to ensure these clubs and activities provide everyone a wonderful experience.

You can learn more here on our website about this amazing community in Central Florida. KEVADVOTECH looks forward to providing updates throughout 2023 as we will highlight some of the beautiful people that make this place so special.

We’re excited to share some of these special moments in this gallery below: