Friend-to-Friend program hosts first event

Senior Dana Grimmel and her friend from the Gallagher Services enjoy the football game

Senior Dana Grimmel and her friend from the Gallagher Services enjoy the football game

Grace Kim, Online Chief

Carl will repeat everything you say.

Echolalia is the mental condition that afflicts Carl, one of the clients at Gallagher Services, “a division of Catholic charities that serves clients with developmental disabilities.” Carl, along with 10 other people with developmental disabilities, came to JC to interact with current students with the Gallagher Services because of a current student and his senior project.

This first meeting for the Friend-to-Friend program,  started by senior Nick Henninger, occurred on Oct. 28 so that students could make arrangements to attend the Homecoming football game with their friends from Gallagher.

Spiritual Development Coordinator Kathleen Roberts from Gallagher Servicesgave a quick orientation about what Gallagher is and how participating students should interact with their respective friend.

According to Roberts, part of their mission is to get the individuals into the community to form friendships and attend sports and cultural events. Roberts explained that their clients come from many different backgrounds. For example, some of the clients were abandoned by their families who could not continue taking care of them.

Roberts explained behaviors that are encouraged or discouraged between their friend. The “Gallagher handshake” is what students were told to use in place of an actual handshake. A fist is made and the student and friend pound their fists together once.

Some of the clients were “non-verbal,” according to Roberts. However, this doesn’t mean that the clients wouldn’t understand what was being said to them. Students were encouraged to talk about basic things such as likes, dislikes, and what they are studying in school. Discussions about boyfriends or girlfriends were strongly discouraged, and students were told to “keep it real” and not make any promises.

During the meeting before the football game, both students and clients passed around a basketball and announced their names and some things they like to do. Then, after introductions were done, the group headed out to the football stadium to watch the game together.

“My partner’s name was Mark. My person was mute, but he had a lady with him that knew everything about him so when I asked him questions, she would answer for him,” freshman participant Lauren Fabizak said.

“They [the people from Gallagher] were very impressed by just the little things. I remember around halftime they went over to the snack stand and saw M&M’s and they loved it so much. He [Mark] was really happy about them and I think it was the best part of his night,” Fabizak said.

“It [the event] just went incredibly well. From the first minute on, I could tell that all of the volunteers were really dedicated to creating strong relationships with the Gallagher people,” Henninger said. “All of the people from Gallagher really were a lot of fun to be around, and it just made the whole night fun and interesting.”

“By the end of the night, people were already coming up to me saying how impressed they were with what was going on and how they wanted to be a part of it themselves,” Henninger said.

“I was definitely really nervous before because I had no experience whatsoever with special needs people, but after it was over, I was so happy that I was a part of it,” Fabizak said.

According to Henninger, the next events planned for Friend-to-Friend are bringing the Gallagher people back to JC for a Thanksgiving party and to see the musical “White Christmas” in December.

For all other students who are interested in joining the Friend-to-Friend program, Henninger may be reached by email at [email protected]

Grace Kim is the Online Chief for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.