Friday Knights relies on student volunteers to help facilitate the program

The College of Saint Rose Friday Knights program is gearing up for another semester of providing a fun and supportive environment for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Friday Knights serves as a great opportunity for both participants and volunteers, but program leaders acknowledge that it is also a huge responsibility. They can use all the help they can get.

Dr. Susan DeLuke, a Special Education Associate Professor and founder of the program, said Friday Knights is in need of 200 volunteers for the spring semester. This might sound like a lot, but it is a testament to how much the program has grown since its inception 14 years ago.

“The impact is really simple: We’ve been able to touch the lives of so many children and families,” DeLuke said. “Our numbers have gone from 30 or 40 to 185 or 200 over the years. That’s thousands of families that have come through our doors. It boggles my mind sometimes.”

The program’s mission is to provide a fun and supportive environment for children with ASD and their families. Children who may have difficulty relating to their peers are able to let loose and feel more comfortable in social settings with the support of the program.

DeLuke said volunteers work side-by-side with other Saint Rose undergraduate and graduate students, helping to organize and facilitate fun activities for children and adolescents (ages 4 to 19). Education faculty also are there to provide activities, guidance, and supervision.

Activities include structured board games, Wii games, movement, drama, yoga, history, science, music and arts, and crafts. Additional volunteer opportunities are available through the Friday Knights’ swim program “Friday Fishes.”

Friday Knights provides fun recreational activities for children and adolescents.

“The kids really enjoy it. Having volunteers to spend time with them, if only for a few hours, and for a few Fridays. It means a lot to the kids to have someone to hang out with that’s not family,” said Shannon Crotty, a first-year student and Social Work major who started volunteering her first semester at Saint Rose.

Crotty said the social work field is in need of employers who have experience working with people with ASD. At first, she was nervous about not being prepared to work with students who are on the spectrum, but after her first session at Friday Knights, she bonded with the children and couldn’t wait to volunteer again.

“The kids were super sweet and so excited for us to be there. All my fears sort of vanished,” Crotty said.

Students of all majors are welcome to volunteer, DeLuke said. To sign up, Saint Rose students should fill out an online application or contact the Friday Knights team at fridayknights@strose.edu.

“This program relies on volunteers, and our students find it to be so rewarding. A relatively small commitment from our students can have a major impact on not only the child who is on the spectrum but their entire family,” DeLuke said.

PROGRAM DETAILS

What: Student volunteer opportunities for Friday Knights, a recreational program for children with autism spectrum disorders and their families
When: February 16, March 16, March 23, April 13, and April 20
Where: The College of Saint Rose
Contact: Fill out an online application or contact the Friday Knights team at fridayknights@strose.edu.