New Philadelphia, Ohio - Two community organizations are teaming up to help Tuscarawas County students gain a new understanding of individuals with disabilities.

The Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities (TuscBDD) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Central Ohio (BBBS) have joined forces to create "What It's Like," a new disabilities awareness outreach program for elementary, middle and high school students. 

Mandy Thomas of Big Brothers Big Sisters says the program is designed to give students in local schools the opportunity to learn what it is like living with a disability through interactive experiences. 

“This particular project is unique because it gives the children in our program the opportunity to connect to their classmates that face challenges different from their own,” she says. “This serves as an opportunity to build new friendships and learn what it is like to be an advocate.”

The outreach program is under the umbrella of the Friends Aliies Neighbors (FANS) Network and is aimed for people of all ages to get a hands-on experience in learning what it is like to live with a disability. 

TuscBDD’s advocacy efforts have grown over the past several years and now include a self-advocate group for adults, a Special Olympics Input Council, several high school-based groups, and
now this FANS outreach. 

New this year to TuscBDD’s advocacy groups is a curriculum called Academy for Leadership Abilities, which will supplement the work that is already being done through these advocacy groups. 

TuscBDD Community Connections Specialist Chris Sapp says that helping the community become better allies for persons with disabilities is one of her missions.

“I don’t like to see people, with or without disabilities, feel lonely or bullied. I believe that if we as a community try to be allies to those who struggle with these challenges, we can work toward creating a kinder environment for everyone.”

“What it’s Like” is presented by TuscBDD staff members Nicole Donant-Moore, Kerri Silverthorn, and Chris Sapp. For more information or to request an outreach presentation, call 330-339-9683. 

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