WATERTOWN, MASS., December 22, 2017 – Nearly 70 people, including a number of young adults with special needs, gathered at the Sons of Italy hall on December 14 for an evening of fun and games – with a serious purpose.
The holiday-themed event, dubbed the “byond22 Dance4All,” featured a DJ, disco dancing, karaoke, raffles and prizes. It also marked the official launch of byond22, a newly formed Massachusetts nonprofit aimed at helping young people with special needs transition to happy, productive adult lives.
“The dance was a wonderful way to both celebrate our kickoff and raise awareness of our mission,” says Yariela Brandao, president and founder of byond22. “I was very gratified by the turnout and by the tremendous support for our organization. It was exciting to see the kids having so much fun, since that is one of the goals of byond22,” she adds.
Participants included young adults with multiple challenges (blindness, deafblindness, autism, and Down syndrome), their parents and caregivers, teachers from the Perkins School for the Blind, the president of MAPVI (the Massachusetts Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired), members of the local community, and byond22 board members.
“What a great kickoff party!” said a teacher from the Perkins School. “I had trouble getting [a student] to leave! This type of social event is so important – for families to have a place to come together and just have fun.”
“Sara loved her centerpiece,” noted one mom, about the disco ball prize that her daughter won at the dance. “It’s up in her room in the group home where a spinning light reflects off it!”
“As the parent of a deafblind child, I understand firsthand the challenges that special needs youth and their families face during the transition to adulthood,” says Brandao. “I’m so excited about the world of possibilities we’re opening up for young people through our organization.”
byond22 is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to helping young people with special needs meet their goals and transition to happy, productive adult lives. It is focused specifically on the needs of disabled youth in Massachusetts who are turning age 22 – the point at which they lose their entitlement to special education services and enter the world of adult human services.
Services include transition support for parents and guardians, recruiting and training for caregivers, a database of group homes, and additional resources – all aimed at helping young adults with disabilities make the best choices for their future and achieve their full human potential. To learn more: byond22.org