Fair connects families with community resources

Oct 28, 2018

When a family needs help, a specific resource can be tough to find. But on October 28, community groups from all over Bristol County brought information right to families as part of the Community Resource and Craft Fair.

The annual event, organized by the Dartmouth Special Education Parent Advisory Council, brought in 74 organizations providing various services and resources, explained SEPAC member Deb August. Another 70 crafters and vendors offered homemade goods for sale for early Christmas shopping.

“We’re parents of kids with disabilities, but the way we see it is to try and capture the resources available to all families,” said SEPAC member Kathleen Amaral. “We like to think of every possible scenario.”

That includes everything from supporting a grandparent with dementia, to a child with mental health issues. Organizations were handing out information and explaining its services to curious families.

Dartmouth Police Officers Scott Affonce and Justin Fonseca brought tools used to find people prone to wandering off due to conditions like autism or dementia. The department is a member of the Southeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, and uses the SafetyNet tracking system.

Those with family members prone to wandering off can request a tracker. The tracker is worn on the wrist, and can be tracked using special equipment if its wearer goes missing. Contact Dartmouth Police for more information about the program.

A variety of civic organizations were also present. Dartmouth Rotary members handed out pamphlets about Rotary initiatives, including chess tournaments, a writing competition, and an in-the-works tree planting initiative.

Melinda Garcia, Andrea Abreu, and Ana Veloso, all Potter Elementary teachers, were selling Dartmouth Pride rocks and raffle calendars to support the Dartmouth High School After Prom.

The committee recently began its campaign to raise the $20,000 needed to provide Dartmouth High seniors with a safe place to wind down prom night. Visit DHS After Prom 2019 on Facebook for information and ways to donate. 

In addition to advocacy and non-profit organizations, a variety of companies were on hand to showcase innovative ways to engage and support kids and adults with special needs.

Kevin and Jamie Sousa led more than a dozen kids and parents through a demonstration of “Drums Alive,” a full-body music and dance program offered through the couple’s Kingston-based business, Abilities Rec. During the demonstration, participants banged on inflatable drums and danced to the beat of popular music.

“It’s a whole-body, whole-mind workout — we get people from 2 to 90, all ages,” Kevin said.

Abilities Rec also offers trampoline, “hippity hop,” yoga, and other programs intended to engage the minds and bodies of participants.

At a nearby booth, Krysten Callina of Mastermind Adventures, based in Swansea, talked to parents about Quest, a tabletop role-playing game she created to help kids with special needs.

Modeled after games like Dungeons and Dragons, she worked with therapists to create a role-playing game to help kids develop social skills. Participants create their own characters, and work with other participants to complete adventures and tasks as their characters through cooperative storytelling.

“It’s a way to help kids develop more nuanced social skills,” Callina said.

Callina currently runs sessions out of Mastermind Adventures’ location in the Swansea Mall, but is developing a certification system to allow people to bring it to other group settings.

Running concurrently to the fair, a blood drive also attracted big attention. Amaral said so many people had registered in advance drive organizers weren’t able to accommodate walk-ins.

Dartmouth High’s unified basketball team, which pairs special needs students with their peer athletes, took on Dighton-Rehoboth in the team’s third game of the season.