All-Stars puts smiles on faces of special needs kids

November 26, 2014

The All-Stars group loaded up and ready for their hayride at this years Fall party.

The All-Stars group loaded up and ready for their hayride at this years Fall party.

By Melissa Schlicht

“I started this program to raise awareness. I wanted people of all abilities to come together to build friendships and life lessons. This program has meant so much to me and to those volunteers and participants who make this program work. Seeing the smiles from both my participants and my volunteers makes it that much better.” – Sarah Walton.

Sarah was inspired to start this program by her youngest sister Kayla.

Kayla loves Dora the explorer, Sponge Bob, swinging, organizing things, and her favorite color is purple. Kayla has a rare chromosome deletion that causes her to develop mentally at a slower rate than normal and at fifteen years old she is still non-verbal. Sarah recognized a need for a local program that brought children like Kayla and their families together.

Crystal Harsh, mother of All-Star participant Aiden Harsh, says that participating in all stars has been amazing for Aiden. “She was able to spend some one on one time with someone who wasn’t a family member. Aiden looked forward to it every single week. Aiden’s older sisters are all in sports and she was always participating in “their” days, and the All-Star program gave her the opportunity to have her own day that was all about her. Something she’d never had before.”

Crystal said “I constantly would have to answer to Aiden; why she couldn’t play soccer, explaining that her legs aren’t made the same way everyone else’s are. And I constantly had to explain to her how it was someone else’s day, but to finally have something that was hers, that was for her, and was made for her, and kids like her…it has really helped her blossom.”

According to Crystal it helps the parents just as much as the kids to be with others who understand the day-to-day life. “This was the first time I was able to sit down and talk with other parents, to give advice, share doctor contacts, and an opportunity to just talk. It helps parents to see that they are not alone. Sometimes you feel like you’re on your own island and it’s good to know there are other people who are dealing with the same things in life as you, and to talk about different ways to cope.”

Sarah’s longtime friend and All-Star volunteer Rachyl Randall said “When Sarah told me her idea for All-Stars I was instantly on board. I thought it was a great idea but had no idea how much it would affect me. When I met Aiden I knew there was a connection. I could have had a bad day, but once I saw her smile all my worries disappeared. Just seeing how happy she is given her circumstance is inspirational.

It is hard to choose one thing that is my favorite about All-Stars, but I would have to say the room full of smiles from every single person is an amazing sight.” Rachyl is Aiden’s All-Star “buddy”. She says that she couldn’t even imagine not knowing Aiden now. According to Rachyl Sarah’s program has had a huge impact on more than the participants; “I have so much respect for Sarah and everything she has done for these kids. I don’t think she truly knows how much of a blessing she has been to not only the participants and their families, but the volunteers as well.”

The All-Stars program’s main focus is to provide a safe and happy environment for kids and adults with special needs and their families and to show people just how amazing people with special needs are. Sarah started this program to raise awareness.

Sarah says “these kids didn’t plan to be born like that, their parents didn’t do anything wrong for them to born like that, it just happened.” She hopes that through this program and other programs like it, people in the community will be more aware of people with special needs. In some ways she feels that Kayla has been robbed of things in life that we all take for granted, like driving a car or going on her first date. Yet, in many ways she wishes the rest of the world were more like Kayla, “She has so little and she is so much happier than people who have so much”.

Sarah hopes to have a weekly program up and running very soon. All-Stars started last spring as a 10-week program that matched each participant with their own “buddy” and taught them to play a specific sport each week. All-Stars is FREE to all participants. There will be several events for the All-Star group this winter.

The next event, the All-Star’s Christmas party, is planned for December 6th from 1pm-3pm at Grant Township Hall in Clare. There will be a photo booth for fun and silly Christmas photos, a visit from Santa, ornament making, cookie decorating, music and plenty of fun. All are invited!

If you would like more information about All-Stars, would like to participate, volunteer or donate please contact Sarah Walton 989-429-3302.The All-Star Facebook page is up and running and is a great way to stay current on all upcoming events and happenings, and view photos of recent events check it out at


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