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Challenged Child and Friends has benefited from United Way
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United Way for Dawson County kicked off its annual fundraising campaign in September with plans to collect more than $100,000 for area social service organization partners. This is the fourth in a series of articles highlighting success stories from local agencies that receive assistance from United Way for Dawson County.

The United Way of Dawson County has selected Challenged Child and Friends, a 23-year-old nonprofit organization that provides aid to special needs children, as one of 11 local groups to receive funding this year.


"We are just so grateful for the United Way's support. We could not do what we do without them," said Lee Highsmith, director of development for Challenged Child and Friends.


Challenged Child and Friends offers a wide array of services including: preschool classroom instruction for children from six weeks-old to six-years-old, an after school program for children up to the age of 10, individualized therapy for speech, physical or occupational disabilities, nursing services and a family support program.


The organization also provides developmental training for children with various disabilities, including Attention Deficit Disorder, Spina Bifida, Autism and Down Syndrome.


"They provide such unique services to Dawson County and the surrounding areas. There is no other organization like them in the northeast Georgia area. The work they do is just phenomenal," said Ruth Goode, executive director of the United Way for Dawson County. 


"We've heard so many success stories stemming from their work with special needs children," she added.


The primary goal of Challenged Child and Friends is to enrich the lives of children and their families by equipping children with the necessary skills to function at home, in school and within the community.


The funding from the United Way will go toward scholarships for special needs children and families.


"No special-needs child is ever turned away on account of lack of money," said Highsmith. 


"Research shows that early intensive intervention greatly increases the chances of substantially better outcomes for children with disabilities. Not having access to services can have an extremely detrimental impact on their future quality of life, including their ability to succeed in school and life," said Highsmith.


During the 2007-2008 school year, Challenged Child and Friends, which serves 12 counties in northeast Georgia, served eight individuals from Dawson County through early intervention services, therapy, consultation and referral services.


Highsmith is particularly proud of her organization's practice of offering their services, not only to special-needs children, but to children who develop typically.


Highsmith believes that exposing special-needs children and typically developing children to each other produces the greatest results for each group.


"Each one of us is an angel with one wing, it's only when we come together can we soar. When we bring special needs and typical developing children together, then all the children soar," said Highsmith.


Challenged Child and Friends is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and licensed by Bright from the Start, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.


Their services are offered from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Challenged Child and Friends center in Gainesville.


The center is located at 2360 Murphy Blvd. in Gainesville.


To find out more information about the program or to apply for scholarships, call (770) 535-8372.