Respite for parents of special-needs childrenCarnivale program takes kids with disabilities six times a year to give parents a night out
By: Emily Zimmer, Rosemount Town Pages
Anna and Bill Saulsberry moved to Minnesota from Texas about a year ago. They have no family and few friends in the area, so finding someone to help take care of their two sons is a challenge. It is especially because their younger son has autism.
So when the Saulsberrys found out about Rosemount United Methodist Church’s Carnivale program they decided to check it out. What they found was the respite they needed.
Carnivale provides a free respite care program for families of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their siblings.
“We are so blessed this is here. It is nice to get out and have some time alone,” said Anna.
Six times a year the church offers the children an evening of fun and games and dinner while parents get to have some time away. The evening starts with a pizza supper together and then the siblings go upstairs for activities and the children with disabilities go to a different wing of the church for their own activities. The program draws anywhere from 25 to 40 children a night.
Rosemount UMC offers Carnivale in October, November, January, February, April and May. The program runs from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
The program takes children ages 3 to 17 with a variety of intellectual and developmental disabilities including autism, Downs Syndrome, spina bifida and others. Program director Gail Hoffmann said they are not equipped to take children with profound disabilities such as those with breathing or feeding tubes, but otherwise they try to accommodate.
Program coordinator Marcia Behm plans activities for Carnivale. She has been involved with the program since its inception five years ago and said the program serves a need that isn’t addressed in a lot of other places. Behm said over the years they have developed a successful structure that ensures the kids have a fun night in a safe environment.
For the Saulsberrys that’s an important part of what the program offers. Bill said the volunteers have a good understanding of what it takes to care for children with disabilities.
“This place doesn’t get enough credit for what it does,” said Saulsberry.
The program depends on volunteers to staff it. Each volunteer is required to take risk management training. Hoffmann said teens from the Rosemount High School National Honor Society and other area groups help keep the program running.
Volunteer Hillary Whitacre is a grad student, who recently moved back to the area from Florida. She’s in graduate school to become an occupational therapist and thought volunteering would be a good opportunity to do some service learning.
Whitacre, a member of Rosemount United Methodist Church, spent part of her night Nov. 30 playing doctor with a girl named Grace. Whitacre said it was fun playing with the kids and she hopes to volunteer with the program again.
“It’s really exciting. We have so many people willing to get involved,” said Whitacre.
Emily Edwinson has volunteered with the program for about a year and said she really enjoys being with the kids.
“They make my day. Every time I come, they make me smile,” said Edwinson, a sophomore at Eastview High School.
Hoffmann and her husband, Doug, helped start the program at Rosemount United Methodist Church. They have a son with disabilities and much like the Saulsberrys had no support system for their family. The program offers a valuable resource to the families of children with disabilities and Hoffmann said the church will continue to offer it as long as they can. She said many of the families come back time after time.
While Carnivale is considered part the inclusion ministries at Rosemount UMC, Hoffmann said Carnivale is separately funded. The program gets most of its funding from its annual golf tournament, which is held in August.
For more information about Carnivale visit www.rosemountumc.org or call Gail Hoffman at 952-322-5796.