Our Case for Support
Help us love, nurture, and educate children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The outpouring of support from our donors has brought Joyful Friends to life and positioned us to fill a critical need in our community.
Children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who also have behavioral challenges, are often left out of existing service models for after-school and summer camp. Joyful Friends was created to provide an opportunity for these children to thrive.
We need your support to fulfill our vision of a world that embraces the neurodiversity of humanity where every child with developmental and intellectual differences will be able to access superior quality after-school and summer camp programs tailored to their needs.
With your help, we know we can do it.
Joyful Friends started with a need
Too many children with developmental and intellectual disabilities who also have behavioral challenges do not have access to the help they need when school is not in session.
As a result, many parents, guardians, and caregivers are forced to stay home during the summer and often find themselves unable to work, as they cannot afford the specialized care these children need to thrive. With the help of Joyful Friends, we will change this dynamic for these families.
Manatee County, Florida, has approximately 50,200 students, 8,500 with developmental disabilities that require specialized support for after-school and summer camp programs. Almost 3,700 children also need specialized behavioral help that typical after-school and summer camp programs are not equipped to provide.
Joyful Friends provides a loving, nurturing, educational, and fun after-school and summer camp experience that is safe and inclusive.
We utilize structured activities and an evidence-based curriculum to foster physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and academic development.
We are committed to maintaining or advancing these campers’ educational and behavioral goals when school is not in session outlined in their Individualized Educational Plans (IEP).
We enable parents and caregivers to maintain gainful employment when their children are out of school.
We have tremendous leadership and heart.
Our co-founders, Ken and Bernadette Gregson, believe in the unique abilities of all children.
Because without this belief, their son Matthew would not be where he is today.
When Matthew was little, Ken and Bernadette struggled to find a place to educate and love Matthew while modifying the challenging behavior he was exhibiting. When they found a place, their lives changed.
Under Ken’s leadership as the Executive Director of Joyful Friends, coupled with his passion for helping children like his son, children and families will receive the life-changing afterschool and summer camp experience they desperately need.