FRIENDS needs help finding affordable space for adult activity center

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Finnegan Boisseau and Logan Tucker at ZooTampa for World Down Syndrome Day in March.

By Debra Garcia

Every day, people with special needs, young or old, are looking for direction and ways to improve their lives, because it can be very difficult for them. This is where Down Syndrome awareness group FRIENDS (Families, Respect, Inspire, Education, Networking for Down Syndrome & Special Needs) comes in who need help.

Since 2014, FRIENDS Executive Director Ann Foyt has done everything in her power to help the group raise money for an activity center for adults with Down syndrome. This way they have a workplace and learn to be more independent.

He’s been trying to raise funds for a potential center for quite a while. During the last football season, volunteers worked at the Raymond James stadium, and they will do so again for the upcoming season. Run by Jeff Green and Paul Foyt, a concession stand is run on the third floor. Adult members have worked alongside volunteers, raising funds and gaining professional experience, which helps them later in life.

Funds are also raised by holding farmers’ markets in the spring and fall and by organizing fundraisers. Just recently, FRIENDS held their first annual B Street Shoot-Out at FishHawk Sporting Clays. Later this month, a Coach Bag Brunch and Bingo event will take place. All funds raised will go to the FRIENDS Activity Center.

FRIENDS does not only organize events for adults in need, but also for children. Thanks to its many partners, it has plenty of programs to help children as much as possible.

“We Rock the Spectrum is helping us bring our Baby FRIENDS playgroup from birth to 5 year olds. The Livingstone Academy allows us to host our adult fun dances and family game nights. For our after school specials, they visit April LaCava’s [Hold] Our horses in Valrico. For Pinellas, we’ve partnered with ResCare to bring an adult dance to Clearwater,” Foyt said.

FRIENDS also partners with the Outback Bowl, Ken Brownlee of Brownlee Group/Keller Williams Realty, Caspers Company, American Metals Supply, AR Savage & Son, Marine Towing of Tampa, the Tampa Bay Pilots Association, Ross Spano Law, Fidelity National Title, Hitchcock Law Group and Runnels Insurance, all of which help raise funds and publicize the business centre.

FRIENDS needs an activity center in the Brandon area ASAP.

“A cafe, tea room or ice cream shop would work well. We just need a place,” Foyt said.

To volunteer with FRIENDS, complete an application at www.friendssupport.org or visit his Facebook page @FRIENDSWESTFLORIDA for more information.

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