F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Families

The Mission of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is to provide free all-encompassing educational and support services to families who have been impacted by Down Syndrome or other Special Needs; while advocating and promoting community integration.

Our Goals are to provide broad reaching educational services, vital emotional and social support, outreach services, and fun social activities to individuals and families impacted by Down Syndrome or other Special Needs. We proudly serve Hillsborough, Pinellas, & Pasco County.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. has been a permanent staple of our special needs community since 2007.  We strive to improve our services each year and have a dream of one day opening a brick-and-mortar building, “The F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Center”.  For now, we offer the following programs, services, and activities.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. PROGRAMS

 

  1. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. PARENT PACKETS – For parents who received a diagnosis of Down syndrome or other special needs diagnosis, a tote bag that includes:
  • Information from our Tampa Bay area special needs resource vendors and providers. Available in English and Spanish Versions.
  • A F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Resource Guidebook designed to provide parents with important contact information and resources.
  • A USF Resource Guidebook – A statewide resource guide.
  • Multiple brochures and pamphlets from Bay Area special needs resource partners who provide special needs products and services.
  • For our parents we include, a free copy, of the informative book “Babies with Down syndrome, A New Parents Guide” by Susan J. Skallerup. Available in English and Spanish.
  • For baby, we include a cute F.R.I.E.N.D.S. onesie and ABLE United bib.

 

  1. HOSPITAL OUTREACH - F.R.I.E.N.D.S. assembles and donates our F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Parent Packets for distribution to eight Tampa Bay NICU’s, who in turn give them to new parents. We donate approximately 50-100 packets each year.

 

  1. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. PARENT LIAISONS – We know all too well the seclusion and exhaustion that comes with raising a child with special needs. We offer in-person and phone support for those who need someone to talk to.

 

  1. BABY F.R.I.E.N.D.S. – Tammy Whatley, Paula Marsell, Barbie, Feger, and Lawrence Back host BABY FRIENDS. A fun playgroup for our birth to 5yrs old’s where parents can meet other parents who are on the same journey. Held at We Rock the Spectrum in Brandon and Largo.

 

  1. AFTER SCHOOL SPECIALS – Kathy Boisseau, with daughter Ava and son Finn offer our 6yrs to 12yr old’s a fun get-together at the park, pool, or other fun spot. Meet other parents while the kids make life long F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

 

  1. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. ADULT DANCES – a fun dance for our adults 15yrs and up. The popular dances are offered to give our isolated adults a chance to socialize and get together with their peers. Free pizza and refreshments are served.  The dances are held in Valrico and Clearwater.

 

  1. ZOOM PROGRAMS - Covid hit us hard, but we bounced right back with the help of ZOOM to provide programs to our special needs community. Join us!
  • Sweating with Sunshine – Heather Brodereck, aka “Sunshine” gets our hearts pumping and our bodies sweating with this low intensity work out. All ages and abilities are invited. Heather works as an Occupational Therapist who specializes in fitness and bodybuilding.  Mondays on Zoom.
  • Good Vibes – Every Tuesday night we get together with F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and hang out listening to our favorite music, meeting new friends, and just hanging out.

 

  1. D.A.D.S. - Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome (D.A.D.S.) provides fellowship amongst dads, uncles, and grandfathers who have a loved one with Down syndrome. For additional information contact us at info@friendssupport.org.

 

  1. CONECTANDO AMIGOS LATINO - Conectando Amigos Latinos fue creado para ayudar a las familias latinas que tienen un ser querido con síndrome de Down. Por lo general se reúnen cada tercer jueves del mes para las actividades sociales e invitar a los oradores invitados para hablar de temas que afectan a nuestras familias. SPANISH OUTREACH – Gloria Rameriz 813-766-8061.

 

  1. MOM’S NIGHT OUT – We meet at local restaurants and have dinner and relax with FRIENDS.

 

  1. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. SCHLOARSHIPS - F.R.I.E.N.D.S. provides scholarship funds to our members in need. If you would like our assistance, please contact us via email at info@friendssupport.org.

 

FUN-RAISING!

You can’t have a Non-profit without fundraising, it’s how F.R.I.E.N.D.S provides all of the programs and services offered and we are extremely grateful to those who help us make it through the year. Please join us as a guest, volunteer, or host to one of the following, fun, fundraisers!

B STREET MARKETPLACE – Join us on the 1st Saturday of each month, 2350 E. State Road 60, Valrico, during October through March.  The open-air farmer’s market is hosted by the wonderful group of volunteers called the B Street Gives Back Group.  Vendors fees and donations benefit F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Thank you B Street Gives Back Group!! Joe Wright, our President and Ken Brownlee, our Vice-President are the leads for this wonderful group of people. You will also see them organize the Fishhawk Clay Shoot and Coach Bag Bingo fundraisers.

FRIENDS VOLUNTEERS AT RAYMOND JAMES - During Football season at Raymond James Stadium, Jeff Green and Paul Foyt manage a concession booth for Legends Hospitality.  F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is part of a Non-Profit program Legends offers. We receive a portion of the booth’s profits, plus a bonus for each volunteer that we provide to work a game, concert, monster truck event, etc.  We have a few regulars, Shellie Dalton, Annette Caldwell, Sherry Whitley, and Zachary Foyt that we would like to thank as they kept F.R.I.E.N.D.S. afloat during covid.

VALUABLE JOB TRAINING FOR SELF-ADVOCATES – While volunteering at Raymond James is a fundraising opportunity, its also a job training opportunity for our Self-Advocates.  They must be over the age of 21yrs and can work alongside other volunteers to learn valuable job skills.  Once they have worked a few games, we can help them find jobs. For more information contact us at info@friendssupport.org.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. BUDDY WALK - October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and our community Advocates and Celebrates for our loved ones with our annual F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Buddy Walk.  The Buddy Walk is our largest fundraiser and 95% of the funds raised go to our support groups, services, and fun activities.  The other 5% goes to The National Down Syndrome Society so that they may continue their national advocacy, services, and programs. Join us as a Team, Walker, Volunteer, Sponsor, or Vendor.  It’s a wonderful day to get together, meet new families, and make new F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

PUBLIX FUNDRAISER - Our Self-Advocates, Zachary Foyt, James Farella, and Juan Ramirez host a fundraiser at Publix in Fishhawk!

FACEBOOK BIRTHDAY FUNDRAISERS – For your birthday, you can start a fundraiser on Facebook to benefit F.R.I.E.N.D.S. This year we have had over $2000 donated to us by wonderful people who think of us on their special day.

Want to host a fundraiser but can’t think of what to do??Contact us and we will help you put one together, info@friendssupport.org.

All funds raised go right back into our services and programs, plus covers the costs of our printing, yearly event Insurance, state, and IRS Fees, office/phone, and storage facility fees.

 

FAMILY PICNICS, PARTIES, & PARADES

When our budget allows, we will have a couple of fun picnics, parties, and participate in a couple of parades.

MARCH - WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY AT ZOOTAMPA – Joins us for lunch, meet new families, and enjoy a day at ZooTampa! You can upgrade your tickets for a year’s pass!

APRIL – SPRING PICNIC – Enjoy a day at the park with a fun Egg Hunt.

MAY – MOTHER’S DAY TEA – Put on your favorite Hat and enjoy a proper English tea with scones, clotted cream, and specialty teas. A prize goes to the best hat!

JUNE – FATHER’S DAY PANCAKE BREAKFAST- Yummy pancakes with Dad!

JULY – DOWN SYNDROME AWARENESS POOL PARTY – Meet other families and F.R.I.E.N.D.S. at the pool, don’t forget your sunscreen!

OCTOBER – F.R.I.E.N.D.S. BUDDY WALK – It’s not only a fundraiser, it’s also a really fun “family reunion” as families who can’t get together to see each other, will see each other every year at the Buddy Walk.  Join us October 29, 2022!

DECEMBER - we celebrate the holidays with our families and F.R.I.E.N.D.S. with our Holiday Party and Breakfast with Santa.

PARADES - If we are lucky enough to find a sponsor, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. promotes our group during the 4th of July in Brandon & the Christmas Parade in St. Pete.  We load up a float with kids and families dressed in a Holiday t-shirts and Santa Hat’s and pass out of candy and F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Brochures.

 

World Down Syndrome Day 3:21!

World Down Syndrome Day was started in 2006 and marks March 21st as the day the voices of people with Down syndrome, and those who live and work with them, grows louder.

Down Syndrome International encourages our friends all over the world to choose your own activities and events to help raise awareness of what Down syndrome is, what it means to have Down syndrome, and how people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities.

All people with Down syndrome must have opportunities to contribute to the community and live valued lives, included on a full and equal basis with others, in all aspects of society.

You can help explain how people with Down syndrome can and do make meaningful contributions throughout their lives, whether in schools, workplaces, living in the community, public and political life, culture, media, recreation, leisure, and sport.

Explain how negative attitudes and a lack of knowledge about their potential as individuals prevent people with Down syndrome from having opportunities to make contributions.

Empower people with Down syndrome (and those supporting them) to advocate for their rights and opportunities to make meaningful contributions and

Reach out to key stakeholders including educators, employers, public authorities, media, and the wider community to ensure they see the benefits of enabling people with Down syndrome to make meaningful contributions and encourage these stakeholders to bring about change and disseminate this message. 

You can take part simply by sharing details of WDSD activities or by photos, messages, quotes or in any way you choose. Wear funny mismatched socks to work and when people notice tell them about WDSD. Join F.R.I.E.N.D.S. in our Funny Socks Contest, you could win your team $50 for the best picture!!

We hope you will consider making a tax-deductible donation to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. All donations will receive a tax-deductible receipt.

ADVOCACY VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

HOSPITAL OUTREACH/PARENT PACKET DISTRIBUTION – We need volunteers to contact and deliver our Parent Packets when needed to bay area NICU’s.


EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH TO OUR SCHOOLS – We need an Educational Outreach Volunteer to give presentations to local schools and our School Board.


BUDDY WALK COMMITTEE – We need Volunteers to serve on our Buddy Walk Committee as we Advocate, Educate, and Celebrate, National Down Syndrome Month. 

LEGISLATION ADVOCATE NEEDED - F.R.I.E.N.D.S. knows that legislative advocacy is critical to protecting the rights of our members. We believe building strong relationships and working with elected officials will allow F.R.I.E.N.D.S. to have a strong voice on issues which impact people with Down syndrome. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. partners with other Down syndrome and disability organizations to address local, regional, and national legislation. We are looking to be more active in Florida federal level in developing our legislative platform. We believe that the best way to pass and sustain bills is for our members to act and contact their representatives about the issues they care about. Learn more about how you can be a legislative advocate.

Florida Congressional Down Syndrome Task Force Members

House of Representatives – Stephanie Murphy (D-FL)  John Rutherford (R-FL). Senate – Marco Rubio (R-FL)   Rick Scott (D-FL)