Interact – Grow – Learn – Love
By: Adriana Martinez
When you think of a star, an image of a hero usually would not be the first thought to come to mind! But the beautiful Eva Longoria is truly a hero to the special needs community. Her tireless efforts to bring awareness and much needed assistance to our special needs community has culminated in the creation of her Texas non-profit organization: Eva’s Heroes. Our world is chaotic and spare time is a premium few people are fortunate to experience. Many of us do not take the time to pause from our daily routine to consider lending a helping hand to someone in need. It is difficult to determine who will be the hero/heroes that will make a difference in this world of ours. What constitutes a HERO? Pick up any dictionary and you will find there are several definitions, however, the best suited definition for the word Heroes in Eva’s Heroes is, “someone who is admired for their achievements and noble qualities.” A true hero is someone who places their own needs and desires aside to rally round to help and empower others; Eva’s Heroes consists of individuals who suspend their daily routines to provide a helping hand to teens and young adults with special needs. A special thank-you goes out from TTW to Eva Longoria for taking the time, energy and loving heart to do everything in her power to help our special needs community.
Approximately 6.5 million people in the United States have an intellectual disability; that includes more than 545,000 school age children. One of the greatest challenges for children across the spectrum of intellectual special needs is developing the life skills necessary for integrating into society. Active and ongoing community participation is a key ingredient to helping children reach their full potential, but the cost and availability of accommodating programs are obstacles for many families. This is where Eva’s Heroes steps in. Based in San Antonio, Texas, Eva’s Heroes is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization which was established in 2006 by actress Eva Longoria and Board President Christiane Perkins-Garcia. The central focus of this organization is to aid and empower special needs teens and young adults between the ages of 14 and 21. Dedicated to enriching the lives of those with intellectual special needs, Eva’s Heroes helps integrate them into society by providing an inclusive setting built on four tenets: interact; grow; learn, and love. Eva’s Heroes offers unique opportunities for these young men and women which otherwise they may not be able to experience.
This outreach is conducted through three primary programs: The After School Program at the Northside Independent School District’s Nellie M. Reddix Center, located at 4711 Sid Katz, San Antonio, Texas. This first program provides an inclusive interactive environment for all middle and high school individuals with special needs; this gives them the opportunity to learn with their peers. It also helps adolescents and young adults increase their ability to function independently and learn the value of teamwork. The program is conducted every week from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The weekly agenda includes the following: sports and games to teach teamwork and encourage healthy interaction with peers; snack preparation to enhance socialization; arts and crafts to foster creativity, and computer activities to provide a stimulating challenge and nurture independence. With a 2:1 ratio, students also receive significant personal attention. Transportation is provided for students who qualify under the IEP and who attend one of the partner schools; for a list of these schools please go to www.evasheroes.org and click on the programs tab.
In addition to the After School Program, a Monthly Activities Program is designed for individuals with intellectual special needs ages 16 and older. These activities are recreation-based and designed to empower the participants to try new and different things. Monthly activities are adjustable for all levels of ability and allow the opportunity to experience a more enriched life. Some past activities have included dances, spectator sports, dining out, game nights, cultural activities, cooking activities, sports, edutainment, arts and crafts nights and museum trips. Through a partnership with Santikos Theatres, they can also attend any one of several theatres; movies are presented every 1st and 3rd Tuesday at Embassy 14, Silverado 16, Mayan Palace, and Rialto Theatres.
The third program, called the Summer Enrichment Program, gives participants the opportunity for a summer camp experience in a structured and supportive environment. The Summer Enrichment Program is open to individuals 14 years old and older; participants engage in activities that weave education and recreation together such as sports and outdoor activities, cooking, computer skills, field trips, arts and crafts, yoga exercising, and fishing.
The goal of Eva’s Heroes is to fully fund and increase participation in all programs. This will form the foundation for dynamic long term goals. The vision for the future includes the following: sibling support groups; art, travel, and yoga programs; special needs summit meetings; conduct city-wide training with community partners, and build a state-of-the-art Eva’s Heroes facility that will house administration as well as all its programs. These goals are only attainable through the hosting of special events throughout the year that serve as fundraisers, thereby contributing to the enhancement and growth of Eva’s Heroes programs. Two such fundraisers are the Celebrity Casino Night and the Celebrity Golf tournament; these two events help raise a large part of the monies needed to fund all these programs. Eva’s Heroes’ success is also due to the support it receives from local corporations; local San Antonio businesses have supported the vision of Eva’s Heroes and have realized the importance of improving the lives of individuals with intellectual special needs living in our community. Whether through financial or in-kind contributions, local business are actively assisting with donations of goods and services, or through opening up their business establishments to Eva’s Heroes participants. The contributions received help enrich Eva’s Heroes programs as well as the lives of its participants.
So what constitutes a HERO? A hero is someone who gives of themselves unselfishly, someone who doesn’t make excuses as to why they cannot lend a helping hand to someone in need; heroes come in all shapes and sizes and do not draw attention to themselves, but instead give to the cause of making a difference in others’ lives. Become someone’s HERO today by contributing to the Eva’s Heroes cause; stand up and help make a difference to those that may otherwise not be able to participate in these great programs where intellectually special needs individuals get the opportunity to INTERACT, GROW, LEARN, and LOVE!
To become a volunteer, contribute, or learn more about Eva’s Heroes please log on to www.evasheroes.org, follow them on twitter https://twitter.com/evasheroes, or like them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Evas-Heroes/80075284462.