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People with disabilities, community connect at annual Friendship Walk

 

September 27, 2017 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

Sharon Thorsen and her daughter Lisa Thorsen, who has developmental disabilities, center, and her brother, Gerald Larsen, walk together in Village Community Services' Friendship Walk on Sept. 23.

Adults with developmental disabilities came to Legion Park and downtown Arlington to participate in the 10th annual Friendship Walk, Run and Car Wash on Sept. 23.

The event is hosted by local organization Village Community Services, which is a nonprofit that supports adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of ways.

The Friendship Walk also raises money for the organization, specifically their "Voices of the Village" band.

The program allows adults with disabilities a chance to play music and be part of a band that travels to festivals and other gigs around the region.

Adults with disabilities, caregivers and other community members participated in the walk in downtown Arlington.

Marilyn Baker, a board member with Village Community Services and a parent of an individual with disabilities, said that events like the Friendship Walk help give those individuals a fun activity.

"It's a population that most people choose not to acknowledge, and once they exit the school system, there are not a lot of activities in the community that brings them together," said Baker.

"Just like you and I, they enjoy each other and being out in the community," she said.

Getting out into the downtown also gives the community at large more exposure to adults living with disabilities.

"It makes it known that we exist," said Vicki Adams, president of the Village Community Services board.

"So many people came up to me and ask 'what's happening today?'" she said.

Sharon Thorsen, a parent of an adult with a disability and Friendship Walk participant, said that she enjoys the walk because of the connection to the town that it brings.

"I just like that it shows that the disabled can do things and get out in the community," she said.

"Other people see the disabled and maybe they become more accepting. We all have differences, but we are alike as well," she said.

Adams hopes that future Friendship Walks can have more connection to locals as well.

"I'm disappointed by the lack of community involvement and I don't know how to make that different," she said.

The event also includes a car wash to help raise funds.

Volunteer Randy Allen said he likes helping to support Voices of the Village.

"I love it, I do it every year," he said. "It's good because it helps these guys [Voices of the Village] and all the donations go to help them."

Voices of the Village meets every Friday at a local church and is open to anybody who wants to participate.

"We try to make it so that the community can interact with us in a safe environment," said Adams.

She said that she and her husband adopted two sons with disabilities who are now passed, and that some people can be hesitant around adults living with disabilities.

"We were in this community the whole time and it was interesting to see people's reaction to it," she said.

The program provides an accepting environment where adults with disabilities can learn to play music and eventually play at events.

"They just want to have a good time and enjoy their friends," said Baker, and Voices of the Village gives them a chance to do that.

The band performs at around 40 events each year. Recently they played at a meeting for a caregivers union in Seattle.

"That was a real experience. You touch people from all over the state," said Baker.

Adams said that Village Community Services is currently looking for additional board members or anyone else who wants to participate.

More information about the organization or their arts, residential or job programs, can be found at their website at villagecommunitysvcs.org.

 

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