A new self-starter E program that’s been helping adults and teens with special needs in the community is called The Game Social.
The Game Social started with two friends, Kevin and Kelly (both of whom are E-Soccer alumni), who love board games and wanted to connect with his cousins who have special needs.
They wanted to create a social experience with them, but weren’t sure the best way to go about doing it. This is until one day when they brought a collection of board games over to play together.
Both of us have a lot of friends who have special needs. I attended an inclusive school called Hope Technology School, so I grew up making friends with lots of different types of people. It was a great environment, and it instilled in me the desire to spread inclusion to every scenario I could.Kelly Lemons
As they played together, they noticed how much it helped one cousin in particular, Ben, feel comfortable enough to let down and have some fun while interacting with the others at the table.
The experience brought to mind for them their own experiences as participants and then volunteers at E-Soccer. Seeing kids come to life as they could comfortably build relationships and enjoy themselves was what made the program so meaningful to them.
Seeing the opportunity
After concluding their game session, Kevin and Kelly decided to start meeting regularly with his cousins. One night after another successful round of gaming together, they got to talking and realized that there was opportunity in their new experience. This format had potential to be something that could help a lot of people.
They knew they would need some help to get their idea off the ground, so they decided to recruit a couple friends, Alexis and David, who also grew up participating in E-Soccer. They drew up some details, and The Game Social was born.
The team found a house where they could consistently meet at and began inviting friends and family. They kept in front of them their goal of creating an inclusive environment, where typical and special needs kids and adults could interact with each other casually over board games.
The impact felt
Since launch, their inclusive game night has grown to roughly 20 people consistently attending each meet up. Already, the program is making impact on the lives of those participating.
Patrick has been taking his son Andre to The Game Social for a couple months now and has seen Andre’s social skills improve dramatically. Andre is initiating playing games at home with his family now.
Andre usually struggles to connect socially and will keep to himself in social settings. Since he’s started going to game social, he has grown more confident. He’s started carrying a deck of Uno cards with him, and will invite other kids to play with him. This is a huge victory for Andre.Patrick Saldou
Luke is a participant of The Game Social, and has, as a typical college student, greatly enjoyed building new relationships over games he loves to play. As another long time participant of E-Soccer, Luke is a believer in making a conscious effort to make friends with people of every ability.
What they learned
The Game Social is currently active and meeting periodically. When asked to reflect on what their key takeaways were, Kevin and Kelly came up with the following steps:
- Plan simple – pick an easy location, and a consistent time. In Kevin and Kelly’s case, they picked her parent’s house at a time when they were always free.
- Start small – start by inviting a handful of people. Kevin and Kelly invited their aforementioned cousins, and then pulled in a few of their friends.
- Keep going – don’t stop after the first event, no matter how it goes. The Game Social didn’t exactly have a smooth start, but it got better and better with each event.
If you have an idea for an inclusive activity and you’re interested in getting a program off the ground, check out our Start Your Own E-Program for tips and resources on how to get started on making a meaningful difference in your community.