JACKSON – St. Richard Parish blessed a new building for its Special Kids program after the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Sept. 24. The structure will also house the Boy Scouts.
The building is named for Msgr. Patrick Farrell, who founded the Special Kids program when he was pastor. It serves developmentally challenged students aged 13-21. The staff works with the student and his or her family to set goals based on their abilities and desires. For some, goals are academic. Others focus on life skills.
The parish hopes the new facility will allow the program to accept more students and expand into serving adults. It has a kitchen, screened porch, classroom and flexible spaces for whatever students may need. For more information on the program, contact the parish at 601-366-2335.
JACKSON – Pam Jew, left, one of the first special education teachers at St. Richard School, and Msgr. Patrick Farrell, who founded the Special Kids program, greet John Chaplain, one of the first students, and Jackie Stedman, an early fund-raiser and supporter, at the dedication of the new Special Kids facility at St. Richard on Sunday, Sept. 24.
By Robert Steadman
JACKSON — There is nothing that will put a smile on your face quicker than a hug from Eve Walsh. That’s the perfect way to start my day. St Richard students and parishioners can relate to what I say. Eve Walsh has been a special part of my life since we were both beginning school and Hanging Moss swim team together in the early 80s. I just love her so much. I really do.
John “Scooter” Chaplain and Eve Walsh (both front row), some of the first Special Kids, with John’s parents and Msgr. Patrick Farrell, who started the Special Kids Program at St. Richard, at the 2015 tournament.
The first class of St. Richard Special Kids.
And then there’s John “Scooter” Chaplain. A classmate of mine. If I close my eyes, I can still see his family van parked in front of St Richards. I can see his mom or dad lowering the lift to let my friend out. You see, he was in a wheelchair, which was actually pretty cool to me at the time. He wasn’t different to me though. He was just another buddy in my class.
Together, Eve and John are the faces of an awesome program that started just after the devastation from the 1979 flood. Frustrated from water damage, a parent shared her concerns with Father Patrick Farrell about her desire for her special-needs son to get the same fine education as her other son. From there, they reached out to John Tracy, who had lots of connections. Together, they all came up with a golf/tennis tournament along with a social/silent auction. This would become a major contributor to the funding for the St Richard Special Kids Program. Not to mention, if you once took aerobics from Jackie Stedman, about half of what you paid went to this program. So, pat yourself on the back. You helped.
I bet there’s a lot of you reading this who know Pam Jew. Yep, and she’s actually known for more than just having sons run the football at Jackson Academy. She, along with her assistant, Myrtis Greer (who passed away not too long ago), were the programs first two teachers. These ladies were such a blessing to these students. And not only to them, but to all the others at St Richard elementary. I’ll quote BJ Chaplain on that. “I always felt that the program did more for the other kids at school, getting to know and not be afraid of special-needs children.” I can certainly vouch for that.
Every year, all this comes together for the St Richard Special Kids Golf Tournament. This fall, the place will be Deerfied Golf Club on October 6th. The event is unique in that the current students help run the tournament. Whether it’s playing with the golfers or helping with the refreshments, these kids make this experience very special. Remember, this is the major fund raiser that has kept the program vital for more than 36 years. Every dollar donated to St Richard Special Kids is used 100% for their benefit. So get in touch with St Richards (601-366-2335) and make plans to be there on October 6th. It’s a rewarding and unique way of donating.
So there you have it. Special people do special things. We’ve all heard that it “takes a village.” Well, that’s exactly how this amazing program was started 36 years ago…and continues to thrive to this day. An awesome program that not only blesses the needs of special children, but the entire St Richard community. So if you ever need to smile, go find Eve Walsh and give her a hug. That will start your day in a special way. No doubt.