EWING TOWNSHIP, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "I mean, I've always been very interested in working with kids with developmental disabilities," said Melissa Burgos, who worked with the Special Olympics as a teenager. "Coincidentally, I had a son with Down syndrome."
Burgos quickly became an advocate for her son, Lee, eight years ago at the time of his birth. She reached out to the Down Syndrome Association of Central New Jersey (DSACNJ), which was a small support group at the time. She became the organization's president and set her sights on a bigger dream.
"Having a place that our kids could come together without judgment and be able to learn and grow was really always a goal and a dream of mine," she said. "We were very fortunate to receive an endowment, then finally have the finances to be able to bring this to fruition."
Club DREAMS, an acronym for Down syndrome Recreation Education Achievement Meeting Space, acquired a space to call their own in Ewing Township. However, its 2020 start date was curtailed by lockdowns and they proceeded to host virtual activities by the hundreds.
Finally, in late 2021, Club DREAMS became an in-person reality. The colorful blue and yellow oasis provides a playground full of enrichment activities fit for children with similar ability levels. Activities include after school homework, yoga, dance, game nights, and more.
Teens like Rebecca Boyd enjoy coming to the space to socialize, learn life skills, and even help younger children grow.
"Rebecca's 18 now, so, Club DREAMS has been good to reconnect with friends she knew when she was younger and also she's been able to meet some new friends," said Joellen Boyd, who helped to create the ambitious project as the Treasurer of DSACNJ.
Today, Club DREAMS hosted dozens of families in its backyard for a one-year anniversary event. The day started with hands-on enrichment activities conducted by students of Rutger University's Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. By the afternoon, moon bounces were inflated and the face paint came out to provide all with a much-deserved celebration.
Burgos hopes the exposure will grow the amount of programs that the organization can offer.
"We really want everybody to know how great our kids are and all they can accomplish," she said.
To learn more about Club DREAMS, visit their website.