South Jersey is filled with people trying to make the world brighter, and that includes Jami Saraullo. Saraullo is the founder of Special Events for Special Kids, a nonprofit that hosts several free events for children with special needs and/or disabilities.
Its upcoming event is an Easter egg hunt on April 19 in Mickleton. Registration is required, however the event is free.
Last year, about 80 kids took part in the program. This year, the activities are split between age group 3 to 9 years old, which starts at 2 p.m., and ages 10 to 15, which starts at 3:30 p.m. The location of the event will be given at registration. You can register by phone at (856) 264-9386 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The events are for special needs children only.
Saraullo started SE4SK with her daughter with the goal of doing something specifically for special needs children.
“We have always been volunteers” said Saraullo. “I have volunteered for as long as I can remember. When my daughter was 10, she raised $2,400 for the children’s hospital by herself, and when she was 11 or 12, she raised $500 for the animal shelter. So she was like, ‘let’s do something for kids with special needs.’”
They have been doing it ever since.
Saraullo is an aide at the Bankbridge Development Center in Deptford, where she also works with special needs children. However her dream would be to “work for Gloucester County and just host special needs events for kids,” she said.
The inaugural activity was the Winter Festival held in February 2016, with just $200 and some donations to back them up. Nevertheless, Saraullo said everyone had a great time, and the event was attended by about 25 kids.
“Everybody played games, and they all won prizes, and they all had a big prize table,” she said.
The success of the program led to more parents wanting to get their child in on the action.
“We met a lot of families, and they just kept asking for more, more, more'” she added. “Now we’re anywhere between 13 and 18 events a year.”
Tam Burns, who lives in Deptford Township, is one of those parents who likes to bring her son, Conner Hagerman, to as many events as possible. Burns thinks this program is the best thing to ever happen to her son.
“This program has basically gotten him to open up and it just changed him. He loves Jami, and Jami just loves him,” she said.
Burns likes that this program not only has made him open up but also more aware of everything.
She has recommended the program to other parents as well, like to Connor’s best friend who is in his K-1 class.
One of the difficulties of the program is finding a venue. That is why Saraullo is not very choosy about where to host the events.
“Basically whoever will donate the space to me, I host it there,” she said.
Donations of any variety from parents also help make sure the children have the best time possible. They also host fundraising events to offset the cost of the yearly events. Saraullo says, “every time one of these events is held, a child will leave with something.”
The activities are one-size-fits all when it comes to who can participate. They are designed so that no matter the disability, any child can participate.
More events are planned, like the Firehouse Tour on April 26 and a trip to the Cohanzick Zoo on May 18. Check out the events on the SE4SK “special events for special kids” Facebook page for more details.