Every mother thinks her kids are special; what’s rare is when a whole community agrees with her. For our friend Sam, a caring and kind-hearted special needs student, that’s exactly what happened at the Heritage of Peachtree.
When the Social Coordinator from Clearwater Academy came knocking at the doors of Heritage of Peachtree in Peachtree City, GA, the Executive Director Wanda Khayat agreed immediately to host one of their special needs students as a community volunteer. What she didn’t realize is the depth of impact Sam would have over the next three years.
“Clearwater Academy has a wonderful Career Development program for students with special needs that prepares them for productive adulthood. I met with the Social coordinator and Sam, who was 13 at the time, and had had a massive stroke during his birth that left him with cerebral palsy, hemiparesis, seizures and global developmental delay,” said Wanda.
“I knew firsthand how important guidance and encouragement is, as I have a 10 year old grandson that also had a stroke during his childbirth, so I didn’t hesitate to welcome Sam into our family here.”
Sam began volunteering several times a week at the Heritage of Peachtree, stopping by to play games, cards, bingo, or simply visit with the residents. After two years, Sam officially joined the team through his Career Path program, designed to help special needs students succeed in the workforce. Now, Sam is pleased to be working with Heritage of Peachtree’s dining team three times a week.
“He’s learning how to work, he’s learning all about his responsibilities, and he’s such a caring and loving person,” said Wanda. “He’s had a huge impact on our residents, they just dearly love him; he is so special to us.”
After such success with the program, Wanda is working on expanding to invite other special needs students and children from Clearwater to become community volunteers. As for Sam, he won’t be leaving any time soon.
“I think Sam has had such a huge impact on our residents here at the Heritage of Peachtree not only because he’s such a wonderful person, but also because our residents can relate to him,” said Wanda. “Sam’s suffered a stroke, so he can’t do many of the things other kids his age can, and our residents are entering a time of life when they’re unable to do all the things they used to be able to accomplish. They gather around him, help him with his tasks, and he views them as some of his dearest friends. I wish everyone could experience this.”