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Support group will serve parents of children with disabilities

Gail Hoffmann knows how hard it can be to have a child with disabilities. She also knows the joys of having a child with disabilities.

"There are infinite joys in raising a child with disabilities. I wish I would have known that early on," Hoffmann said.

Shortly before his first birthday, Hoffmann's son Eric was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome. Williams Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that leads to development problems.

Since that diagnosis 15 years ago, Hoffmann has had to become an expert on her son and his medical condition. She's also become an advocate for people with disabilities.

With her wealth of knowledge Hoffmann will facilitate a support group for the parents of children with intellectual and physical disabilities at Rosemount United Methodist Church. The free parent-networking group will be sponsored by The Arc Greater Twin Cities.

"More and more I'm finding families need support," said Hoffmann.

The goal of the group is share the hard times as well as the good times of raising a child with disabilities. Hoffmann said they also will have available all the resources that Arc has.

"I don't want it to be a woe is me. It's a place where we can exchange ideas, listen to concerns and uplift those going through difficult times," said Hoffmann. Hoffmann said the biggest need parents have is navigating the medical and education systems. Hoffmann said the education system can be particularly difficult.

A longtime member of Arc, Hoffmann said her two sons have benefited greatly from Arc programs.

"There's no finer organization than Arc," said Hoffmann.

Hoffmann, who lives in Apple Valley, is a member of Rosemount UMC. Over the last several years the church has worked toward being more accessible for people with disabilities. The church has also reached out to families of children with disabilities through its Carnivale Ministry.

Seven times a year Rosemount UMC offers Carnivale, in which volunteers provide the children a fun night and the parents can have four hours of free time. Hoffmann said the program has been well utilized.

The support group is just another ways in which the church can serve those families and any others in the community. Hoffmann there will be nothing religious about the support group meetings.

"It fits into the church's mission to serve," said Hoffmann.

Childcare will be provided for $3. Hoffman said the $3 will cover all children who need care.

The general support group meets on the second Tuesday of the month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Rosemount United Methodist Church, 14770 Canada Ave., Rosemount. Meeting dates for 2011 are Sept. 13, Oct. 11, Nov. 8 and Dec. 13. Meeting dates for 2012 are Jan. 10, Feb. 14, Mar. 13, Apr. 10, May 8, June 12, July 10 and Aug. 14.

The Arc Greater Twin Cities' networking groups are free, but participants should register in advance. For registration or more information, call 952- 920-0855.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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