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Club helps those with special needs
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Forsyth County News

Many residents may have heard of the Civitan Club, but don’t know what it represents or does.

Ann Raines, president of the local club, explained that Cumming Civitan is part of Civitan International, an association of volunteer service clubs that serve their respective communities.

“We are a very hands-on group,” Raines said. “We serve children and adults with special needs, as well as other ways to help others in our community.”

Civitan began in 1917 when a group of professionals met in Birmingham, Ala., to discuss ways to improve their community.

Courtney Shropshire, a prominent and well-respected doctor is credited with being the founder of Civitan International. There are currently more than 30,000 members in hundreds of clubs across North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Through various events, the club raises money to help adults and children with special needs, as well as those who support them.

Cumming Civitan sponsors three activities a year for local special-needs children: a Halloween party; Valentine’s Day dance for middle and high school students, plus a pizza party for all of the children, buddies, teachers and bus drivers; and a Christmas celebration for elementary-school students, complete with a visit from Santa.

The local Civitan Club helps with the Special Olympics by providing music, dancing, face painting and more. And it sponsors students to attend a weeklong camp at Camp Big Heart, which is designed for special-needs children.

The club also recognizes those who teach and care for them, with a “Special Education Teacher of the Year” award, which will be presented May 2.

“We want to honor these teachers and thank them for their tireless work,” Raines said.

Georgia District Civitan recently awarded the group “Outstanding Service to Youth” award for its excellent special education parties.

Members of the club are all ages and share a goal of serving others.  For some such as Dianne Hansard, who first got involved 20 years ago, the reasons for participating are also personal.

“Our grandson, Nicholas, had some issues early on, and when he was just three months old, he started having seizures,” she said.

According to Hansard, the medication worked for a few years before the seizures became more frequent and severe.

“He had several surgeries and then he was also diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, autistic behavior and brain damage from a virus contracted during my daughter’s pregnancy,” she said.

Nicholas, 23, still depends on others for his care.

“He has given us so much joy over the years, I wanted to pass this joy on to others by helping those with special needs and those who care for them,” Hansard said.