Mary Kate Gallagher - Norwell Middle School
Mary Kate Gallagher from Norwell Middle School
Our daughter Mary Kate Gallagher who is 14 and an 8th grader at NMS is a great girl, high honors student, great athlete. She was the only girl in her grade last year to win the Principal's award, chosen for her effort attitude and accomplishments and last summer was given the SEA award from her sailing club given for her Sportsmanship, Effort and Attitude.
But the reason I think Mary Kate is a class act has to do with a program she started for middle-school aged kids with developmental disabilities.
In Norwell, where we reside, The Friendship Home was recently built. The Friendship Home is a wonderful place for kids and adults with special needs to go to socialize and participate in various vocational programs. The second floor which has recently been completed, offers respite for their members to stay overnight. I have been involved in fundraising efforts to built the home for the past few years.
As a thank you to the volunteers who helped with fundraising, the members of the Friendship Club hosted an ice cream social. I attended this event in June of 2010 and brought my daughter Mary Kate, who was 11 at the time. Mary Kate loved the experience, from having kids with special needs make her an ice cream sundae, to talking and meeting new friends. One girl Mary Kate particularly enjoyed meeting was a young girl named Sophie. Sophie is about the same age as Mary Kate, with an adorable hair cut and stylish outfit and from across the room, just looked like 2 tweens chatting and having fun. Sophie has special needs but unlike some kids who may shy away from children who are different, Mary Kate had a blast hanging with Soph. As I watched the interaction between Mary Kate and Sophie, I noticed a man next to me observing them as well. It ended up being Sophie's dad and as we began chatting, he smiled as he commented that Sophie was really animated and exciting as she
spoke with Mary Kate.
For several weeks after the ice cream social, Mary Kate asked if I had asked 'Mrs. Goodhue' referring to Wilma Goodhue founder of Frienship club if she could volunteer at their middle school club. When I finally spoke to Wilma she informed me that they didn't have a middle school club. When I told Mary Kate this, rather than being disappointed as I expected, she simply responded 'can we start one?'. Initially Wilma questioned whether middle schoolers would be mature enough to work with peers with developmental disabilities but was willing to give it a try. We were able to track down Sophie who lives in Hingham and her and her dad came to our home to talk about our idea for this club since Sophie was the inspiration behind Mary Kate's interest in it. They decided to give it a try and Sophie was officially our first member! We were reminded that Friendship Club meets year round so we had to choose the day of the week that would work. We picked Mondays and Friendship Home
hosted an orientation for our new volunteers. Our first club was held on Monday April 11 2011. Sophie along with about a dozen other middle schoolers participate in our biweekly club. Mary Kate's younger brother Jack who is 12, is also a volunteer. At club we play games including ping pong and air hockey as well as wii games. We do arts and crafts and cook and bake.
Last year our club participated in the annual talent show and next week, some of our members will participate for the first time in Friendship Home's fashion show-so exciting for them!
When Mary Kate started this club, she knew the commitment involved, so despite conflicts with sports practices, etc. she has only missed 1 club in over 2 years when we traveled to Ireland on a family vacation.
I wanted to share our story, not to brag about my daughter, but because its a good story that may inspire other teens to follow their dream and get involved in something they find interesting. Also, we have space in our club for new members and despite our efforts in reaching out to local schools special Ed departments, we still haven't filled those spots but I'm sure their are kids out there who might be excited to join out club and hopefully will contact us if you choose to share our story.
Thanks you for your consideration,