GREENFIELD — Twenty years ago, Denise Arland was the new mom of quadruplets, each of whom had different special needs.
She didn’t know any other parents of special needs children. She’d never felt so alone.
That is, until she met Amy Borgmann, who was also the mother of a child with special needs, and the pair started Families United for Support and Encouragement, or FUSE, which provides information, resources and support to Indiana families of children with special needs.
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That first meeting comprised about 12 people at the Greenfield Ponderosa Steakhouse, but now the nonprofit organization serves at least 1,000 people a year, Arland said.
To celebrate 20 years of supporting children with special needs and their families, FUSE is hosting a dinner Saturday at the St. Michael Church Father Severin Messick Parish Life Center, 519 Jefferson Blvd., Greenfield.
The keynote speaker is Maureen Greer, the former director of Indiana First Steps, an Indiana Family and Social Services program that works to help Hoosier families make sure their infants and toddlers receive services now to help them in the future.
Greer is now a national early intervention specialist and consultant, Arland said, and goes to other states to help them set up their First Steps programs.
In addition to the anniversary dinner, FUSE has begun a social media campaign called “$20 for the 20th,” with a goal of getting 1,000 people to donate $20 each, for a total of $20,000.
Borgmann said the organization plans to continue the campaign until it has reached its goal; about 30 people have donated so far.
In the meantime, the organization will continue to serve families searching for services, information or just the relief of speaking with someone else who knows their struggles, Arland said.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of disability a child has,” she said. “All parents of a child with a disability will have something in common. A lot of us use online support groups, and those are helpful in many ways, but our clients tell us the face-to-face relationships have been huge.”
Borgmann said FUSE events are a safe space for families with children with special needs, as parents don’t have to worry about stares or comments from people who don’t understand.