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Gotta have friends


A Norman activities center provides friendship and fun for adults with disabilities.

Kathleen Norris Park July 24th, 2013

Activity is the key word for Among Friends, a Norman facility where adults with disabilities and special needs find things to do, friendship and fun.

cathe+fox+assists+robin+neherRobin Neher assisted by Cathe Fox - Credit: Shannon Cornman

After her teenaged daughter suffered a car crash and traumatic brain injury, Cathe Fox saw how isolated life in a wheelchair was for the girl. As a result, Fox found other mothers of disabled young adults, and together they started gathering for craft projects, games and conversation. The group soon outgrew the First Baptist Church building it had been using.

With a grant from the Oklahoma Cerebral Palsy organization in 2005, what became Among Friends moved into the Community Services building on E. Main and expanded both its size and its clientele. But it still depended mostly on an all-volunteer staff and donations. Later, the Norman United Way provided funds, and soon, some 35 adults found the agency, most learning about it by word of mouth.

It now serves more than 50 and operates every weekday in a 4,000-foot space that can accommodate wheelchairs and the visually impaired. There’s a kitchen, a big room for games and meals, other spaces for movies and crafts, offices and even a courtyard.

“We still don’t take money from federal or state sources,” Fox said. “United Way helps us, and we have a yearly fundraiser. In September, we will continue our 10th birthday celebration with a fair and fun run.”

This year’s recent fundraiser exceeded its goals for contributions and participation. All funds go directly to programs for adults with special needs. The University of Oklahoma Catering Service provides lunches for a fee. All these efforts together allow the daily and monthly cost of membership to be affordable for families who otherwise would not have this outlet for their disabled loved ones.

“It means a great deal to us,” said Carl Deaver, whose daughter attends Among Friends. “It’s a happy, safe place for her to go and gives her something to do and keep active. Among Friends has given us a place, and now we have services [for] four to six hours a day, with the addition of exercise and art classes.”

Becky Overby agreed. Her 19-year-old son has attended for two years.

“He’s a lot happier,” she said. “He fits right in, has a social life there. They have a dance every month and all kinds of games, and they help around the facility.”

“For me, it’s a great place,” said Robin Neher, who started attending in 2003. “I get to be with my peer group. And you know you aren’t the only one with a disability.”

 
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