Memorial Park Church hosts monthly events for special needs community

Saturday, October 19, 2019 | 12:01 AM

Friday Nite Kids and Special Friends are two popular social events for special needs persons that happen monthly from September to May at Memorial Park Church on Peebles Road in Allison Park.

For the younger crowd, Friday Nite Kids is a great spot for children with special needs and their siblings, said Abbie Nosel, who said the youngest child participating right now is 2 and the program accepts anyone up to age 21 or 12th grade.

“The kids love it. Once they come and do it they love it and want to come back,” said Nosel, of Reserve Township.

Friday Nite Kids meets the second Friday each month from 6 to 8:30 p.m., during the school year. Parents can come with their children, but they’re encouraged to just drop them off.

Nosel, who is the Friday Nite Kids coordinator, said this is a way for caregivers to go to a movie, shop or just have time to themselves.

“We help families with their kids. Parents know they can go out,” said Nosel.

The night is divided up into rotating activity groups, including crafts, snacks, computers, and gym. A Bible Study and prayer time are offered But children don’t have to be a member of the church or any church for that matter.

The program tries to feature special activities. In the past, they had CDG Sports, a magician and ventriloquist. The teen girls like the dance in February, she said.

The program operates on a budget of $500, and she said many people at the church donate to the group. It’s completely free for the families that attend. And they are always looking for volunteers with the proper clearances.

Nosel said there are approximately 50 volunteers any given night and every special needs kid has his or her own “buddy” for the evening.

“They’re not anything different. They may have different personalities, different issues. But they’re just kids,” said Nosel, who is a mom of a 1-year-old.

The level of special needs varies from one child to the next and they have open arms for all that have visited. Some may have learning disabilities or challenges with socializing.

One Friday Nite Kid is in a wheelchair, nonverbal, has a feeding tube and experiences seizures, which may seem like a lot of challenges but Nosel was excited to have them join the group. She said this participant smiles and laughs and has a good time.

Some of the volunteers are teenagers and make real social connections with the teens who have disabilities.

Kristen Satariano of Ross Township volunteers with her whole family at Friday Nite Kids.

“Our family is grateful to be involved in a program that offers respite to families who often don’t get a chance to get a breath. And all the while, we get to be additionally blessed by the enthusiasm and energy our Friday Nite kids bring each month,” she said.

Nosel said many Friday Nite Kids are “graduating out” and may now be attending the Special Friends group at Memorial Park Church, geared specially for adults with special needs and their friends.

Special Friends meets at the church the second Tuesday of each month, September through May, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., said coordinator Marlene Pugliese of Shaler.

There’s no age limit to attend. Participants range from their late teens and 20s to elderly, she said.

There are close to 80 participants right now, she said. And, like Friday Nite Kids, it’s free to come.

They color, talk, have fellowship, make birthday cards, play games and more. She said they also “love” Bible Jeopardy.

Next month organizers are planning to have a dance and DJ. They enjoy Bingo and act out a Christmas play during the holidays.

“It’s just one of my favorite days of the month,” Pugliese said of the Special Friends meetings.

Participants come from as far as White Oak, McKees Rocks, Homestead and Zelienople.

“It’s quite an outreach,” said Pugliese, who has been coordinating the program for more than 20 years.

Special Friends usually has around 15 to 20 volunteers each session. In lieu of a fee to come, Pugliese said they ask participants to bring a donation for the North Hills Community Outreach food bank.

For her, it’s a way to help others through her faith. And while she said it’s Christian-based, anyone can come whether they have a religion not. Parents of some of the participants use this as an opportunity to share stories or resources with others special needs caregivers.

Registration for Nite Kids or Special Friends should be done ahead of time by visiting or calling 412-364-9492.