ELISE WALLIS | Scroll Photography

Organization provides opportunities for disabled students

ELISE WALLIS | Scroll Photography

ELISE WALLIS | Scroll Photography

HANDS is a service activity that allows students with disabilities to create art and display it at the end of the semester.

The service activity is held every Wednesday from 7-8 p.m. in the Gordon B. Hinckley building, room 209.

Allie Draper, a senior studying elementary education, said that HANDS does not stand for anything, it is simply service.

Kayla Fitzgerald, the director for service activities, started the program.

Draper said that without Fitzgerald, the program would not be possible.

“She is now a director for Service Activities, so we were asked to do HANDS last semester and this semester,” Draper said.

Draper said the activity is in part to get together and make friends.

She said the sole purpose of this activity is to give students an opportunity to serve and be a part of something great.

“It is so important to the participants, and if we all come out and serve, it won’t only benefit those with special needs, but also those who serve them,” Draper said.

She said it is a service activity that brings in the Spirit.

“The participants feel needed and loved, which helps them know they are worth something, and the people who serve are blessed with different things for serving,” Draper said. “It’s a very Christlike attribute, to serve.”

Madison Slarks, a senior studying special education generalist K-12, said HANDS is really important for serving others.

“HANDS is important because it brings people together, and it’s fun,” Slarks said. “It teaches volunteers how to work with different people and our friends how to socialize and be themselves.”

She said she believes those with disabilities have a special spirit that students can learn from.

“Even though arts and crafts seems like a small thing, I can see how much everyone enjoys it because of the fun spirit that is in our room,” Slarks said.

She said HANDS is a place where the Spirit resides because of the service being done and the people that are there.

She said it the program would not be possible without the Spirit being present.

“I could see how arts and crafts may not seem like a service activity, but I promise it is,” Slarks said. “Our volunteers come to help and socialize with our friends with disabilities.”

She said many think service is a one-way ticket to making friends, but that it is also about learning and having a good time.

Slarks said she just provides the materials and participants do the rest.

She said there are many benefits to being a part of HANDS.

She said that she has seen a change in herself and others who are a part of the service activity.

“I have seen a lot of our friends come out of their shell and be themselves,” Slarks said. “It’s been really awesome to see. In myself, most definitely. I have seen how service can change a person, and it has changed how I look at people.”

She said that at first, she felt like she needed to protect those with special needs from the outside world, but that changed once she became part of the program.

“Now I am a lot more willing to provide a safe environment for everyone to mingle and be themselves,” Slarks said.  “I have learned a ton. I can’t even explain. I am so blessed to be able to have the opportunity to be a part of Service Activities, and especially HANDS.”

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