When it comes to caring for one another, there is a natural bond between young adults with special needs and soft and cuddly cats and dogs.
So when several local mothers asked the 15 members of a weekly Autism
Cares Foundation social club how they wanted to give back to the community, they immediately expressed a strong interest in helping local animals.
Val Murphy, whose daughter, Erin, 20, is a member of the group, helped the young adults with autism to collect dog toys, dog and cat food, blankets, towels and other items for animals at the SPCA on Erie Avenue in Philadelphia.
"We were trying to teach them about giving back to the community by doing volunteer work, and I asked the group to come up with an idea to collect something that would be of value," Murphy, of Southampton, recently explained.
"Individuals with autism have a real affinity for animals, especially dogs," Murphy said, "so another mom, Gennie Devlin, recommended that we collect items for a local SPCA in her community." Her son, Billy, 21, is also a member of the social club.
The project involved each of the club members asking their parents, grandparents, neighbors, and friends to donate one or more items for the animals. These items were collected for a month, and placed in large boxes that the club members decorated.
The donation boxes were also placed at the Autism Cares Foundation Resource Center in Southampton, as well as the Manhattan Bagel on Second Street Pike in Richboro, so that the local community could get involved in donating items for the animals.
"We ended up collecting 20 big bags of items, including cat food and toys, kitty litter, dog food and toys, sheets, towels and comforters," Murphy said. "The club members loaded everything into two cars, and then unloaded it when we got to the SPCA. The employees took photos of them proudly sitting on the bags, and said how much they appreciated the donation."
Then as a bonus for all of the hard work, two dogs were brought out to the club members and they were included in the photos as the young adults happily pet them.
"When we were finished, they invited us to walk through and look at all of the dogs, then we were able to visit with a room filled with cats," Murphy recalled. "The SPCA employees were not only appreciative of our efforts, but they were impressed that the young adults with autism in the club did the project themselves."
Since the first endeavor was so successful, Murphy said they are planning their second charitable project - most likely a food pantry - and hope to continue giving back to the community every few months. "We wanted our sons and daughter to learn about giving back, and it was a great idea. We are so proud of all of them."