Dozens of children are engrossed in play at the local splash pad, thanks to an innovative initiative. The program, a collaboration between Liberty Village and the Partner Resource Network, extends a warm welcome to Department of Defense ID cardholders. This inclusive summer project aims to provide a safe, fun environment for the children to enjoy, while fostering interactions among families. (US Army photo by Eric Franklin, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs
Dozens of children are engrossed in play at the local splash pad, thanks to an innovative initiative. The program, a collaboration between Liberty Village and the Partner Resource Network, extends a warm welcome to Department of Defense ID cardholders. This inclusive summer project aims to provide a safe, fun environment for the children to enjoy, while fostering interactions among families. (US Army photo by Eric Franklin, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — Liberty Village and the Partner Resource Network are collaborating to create a novel and inclusive initiative for Department of Defense ID cardholders at the local splash pad as part of an ambitious summer project.

Dubbed “Special Needs and Siblings Playdate,” the program aims to allow families with special needs members to interact and enjoy worry-free summer days. The event, which occurs once a month throughout the summer, offers dedicated time and a secure environment for children to play. At the same time, their families gather, socialize and embrace the summer sun.

Sgt. 1st Class Cris Williams, the 11th Corps Signal Brigade community life noncommissioned officer for Liberty Village, shed light on the driving force behind the inclusive swim program. The initiative aims to create a platform that enables families to bond, share their experiences and discover resources to support their special needs children.

“There are families who may feel isolated as if they are navigating this journey alone,” Williams shared, hinting at the sense of solitude that often shadows families with special needs children. He further emphasized that the event is more than just a recreational opportunity, it serves a greater purpose.

The sentiments expressed by the families participating in the Liberty Village program reveal a stark truth about the scarcity of events and initiatives tailored for special needs individuals.

Such events are few and far between as if lost in the crowd of mainstream activities. Yet, in this landscape, the Liberty Village initiative emerges as a welcome exception, a beacon of inclusivity and empathy.

One of the village residents, Taylor Paulson, has lived in Liberty Village for three years. In her experience, events specifically designed to cater to the needs and comfort of special needs children are remarkably rare.

“You don’t come by them very often being here,” she shared, “and this is the first event that I’ve been to that was directed for special needs kids.”

Paulson further appreciated the organizers’ empathy and understanding toward children with special needs.

“It’s really cool that they would care enough about our kiddos because, like mine, she can get sensory overload from being around a ton of other kids,” Paulson said. “This can lead to self-harming behavior and fear of loud noises. So, having an event like this means a lot to us.”

Drawing attention to the impact of this initiative on the participating families, Williams underscored the transformative power of such programs.

“They’re smiling ear to ear,” Williams stated. “Based on what I’m hearing from the families, this is one of the few events that they have for special needs.”