Auburn Family

Children with disabilities are told that they are just like everyone else, and they are but unfortunately they do not often times get the same opportunities as other children. An organization called Expressions of a Brave heart (Brave hearts) works to change this.

They are an organization founded by two teachers at Auburn University, Dr. Angie Burque and Dr. Danilea Werner with the purpose of helping these children to grow, learn, and enjoy life with their peers. They want to give these kids a sense of community and they do so by setting the program up for children ages 11 to 22 and meet every other Monday night from 5:30-7 p.m. During their meetings they offer dance, art, and music instruction of which the kids may choose two.

Each week the participants may select a different two activities to participate in. "We are flexible. We take any disability from moderate to severe. We just want the kids there," says Werner. She says they don't care if you show up every third time or every week just as long as the kids are coming.

"This is not only for the kids but also for the parents to have a support system and a place of relief," says Werner. This is the one time each week that these parents do not have to worry about the safety of their children and can relax.

Brave hearts occurs in both the fall and spring semesters and at the end of each semester, there is a performance put on by all of their participants and their volunteers. This is an opportunity for the parents and families to see the kids perform when they may not have that opportunity otherwise.

Currently, the Opelika Sportsplex is the home of the Brave hearts' activity evenings. They donate their space every other Monday and Dr. Werner says they don't know how they could have made this possible without them. "Everything we have comes from our donations," says Werner. Their donations cover T-shirts for the participants, craft materials, and instruments for the kids to learn with.

Brave hearts is a free organization for the children so in addition to donations, the program is run on the willingness of volunteers to serve. The volunteers dedicate their time twice a month to these children teaching them how to dance, play music, and make art projects. The number of volunteers more than doubles the number of children as they need at least two volunteers for every child in the program. Werner says most of their volunteers have come from Auburn University and they would love to have more. For more information, contact the organization at bravehearts@auburn.edu.

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