Kate Brogan, a 17-year-old at Valparaiso High School and dedicated Girl Scout, set up shop in the Boys and Girls Club of Valparaiso Friday afternoon to teach young children what it means to grow up with a developmental disability. The project will allow Brogan to achieve her Gold Award, the highest distinction for a Girl Scout.
The Gold Award challenges Girl Scouts to identify social issues that matter to them and take action to educate and inspire those around them.
"To get the award you have to change something for the greater good," Brogan said. "I'm teaching kids to understand what it means to be developmentally challenged. I volunteer at Kidworks in Chesterton, which is a place where kids can go for therapy."
Kidworks is a pediatric facility that specializes in offering early intervention for developmentally challenged children.
"As a volunteer, Kate really learned the ins and outs of the importance of therapies for children," Emily Gray, a Speech Therapist at Kidworks said.
Just as important as disabled children getting the early intervention they need is their peers having the empathy to include someone who's just a little different.
"We need the young generation to understand that people with disabilities did not choose to be born that way," Urszula Krygowski, the Kidworks Office Manager said. "We need young kids to learn to understand and help them in the community."
Teaming up with Kidworks, Brogan created a fun way to teach kids about the challenges that many of their peers face. From dyslexia to autism, Brogan designed fun activities and games that allowed the kids of the Boys & Girls Club to learn what it means to be disabled. Whether learning how to play basketball in a wheelchair or learning to read jumbled words, these kids got a taste of the reality of some of their peers.
"The Boys and Girls Clubs works to elevate the quality of life for our youth and our communities. Our Clubs provide programs and activities to support our Club members' academic success, good character and citizenship and healthy lifestyles. We ensure that after school and during the summer, no child is unsupervised, unguided or unsafe," Cathie Dull, Assistant Director of Resource Development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County said.
Brogan and the people at Kidworks hope this activity will inspire a empathy for all people that will help kids grow up to become responsible, caring citizens.
The importance of community underlies everything Brogan does. Brogan has been in Girl Scouts since kindergarten. Over the course of her experiences, Brogan has learned what it means to be part of the community and take the opportunity to do good for as many people as possible.
"Girl Scouts has helped Kate realize that the world is bigger than just herself," Kate's father, Jack Brogan said. "It's given her a sense of community and helped her find herself along the way."
In finding herself, Brogan has identified her passion for helping society's downtrodden, especially those working to overcome developmental disabilities.
"Being in Girl Scouts really means working to improve the world we live in," Brogan said.