Special needs, special sidekicks: Program forges friendships despite differences in kids’ abilities
When Hunter Peebles read a particular social media post last month, it stirred something within her. A mother shared what her special-needs daughter had endured recently.
Peebles, owner of Hunter’s Dance Studio, knows what it’s like to raise a daughter with special needs. Her daughter, Caramy, who is now 23, was diagnosed at a young age with Kabuki syndrome and has had to deal with medical and developmental delays herself.
Peebles reached out to the mother to offer support.
“I commented by telling her Caramy would be glad to come spend time with her,” Peebles recalled, adding that Caramy got to know the woman’s daughter years ago when she took dance class.
“Please tell Caramy she needs a friend,” the mother replied to Peebles.
That comment alone inspired Peebles to start a movement in Wilson with the help of several other moms who have children with special needs.
And within several days, “Sidekix” was born — a program aimed to bring children with special needs or disabilities together with typical-developing children in an effort to spend time together and develop friendships that will last a lifetime.
“For children with special needs or disabilities, the need for a friend or a sidekick is just as strong as for the typical-developing child,” Peebles said. “Rather than separate these two types of children, we want them to start to include each other and learn from each other.”
Last week, Sidekix kicked off its first of five summer events where special-needs children and typical-developing children meet and spend time together. Dozens headed out to watch a movie together at AMC Classic Wilson.
This Saturday, Hunter’s Dance Studio will host the second Sidekix event, “Tumble and Creative Movement,” from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.. The event is free. Peebles encourages children with special needs and typical-developing children to attend.
Over the next few months, the group will have participants fill out a form so organizers can create a friend-matching database during the fall. Peebles said Sidekix plans to have at least two to three events each month.
She said the group also wants to eventually have each friend to spend time with each other outside of the group events.