Reporter: Teanna Dorsey
Enjoying a dance and live music on a Friday night is a common experience taken for granted by many young adults.
For those with special needs, these experiences may be faced with fear and longing.
Durham region young people living with special needs have joined together to form a community with an open mind and an open heart.
Sunrise Youth Group is a charitable organization in Whitby that offers a place for special needs individuals to come during the day.
They get to enjoy recreational and social experiences that most young people take for granted.
“We have four full-time staff and over 100 volunteers,” said Robin Holber, Sunrise Youth Group staff.
The group has a unique approach to their care and relies largely on dedicated volunteers in the community, as well as trained staff.
Anyone can become a Sunrise volunteer, as long as they are reliable and trustworthy.
There are no attendance requirements and volunteers can take on as much responsibility as they want and feel they can handle.
Only two student volunteers can assist with the day program because it gets crowded with the staff and up to 16 youth group members, said Holber.
“They recently went apple picking, and everyone had a good day,” said Julie Burnett, a second-year social service worker student at Durham College.
There are two types of programs the organization offers members.
The recreational program is open to members and non-members and only a small fee is charged for club nights and dinner and movie nights.
This year there is going to be an overnight event on New Year’s Eve to bring in 2014 with a bang.
Every other month they offer dances, or other special events such as karaoke, live music or a magic show.
In the summer months there are wilderness weekends where members and volunteers set up tents and spend the day at the beach or in the outdoors to unwind.
The Sunrise day program is run by dedicated staff to help integrate developmentally delayed adults into the community.
The program runs Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and there are many different activities offered.
“It keeps them busy during the day and a part of the community,” said Burnett.
The developmentally-delayed members in the day program at Sunrise Youth Group made crafts and desserts sold at a bake sale at Durham College to help raise money.
“It relies on fundraising,” said Burnett.
Sunrise Youth Group is an official charitable organization and requires funding from the community in order to keep offering its services for a low price.