Festival Celebrates Inclusive Friendships Among Kids

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has–or ever will have–something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.” – Mr. Rogers

Students participating in "cross-country skiing"

Students participating in “cross-country skiing”.

This quote from Fred Rogers is so fitting for the atmosphere of encouragement and camaraderie at the recent Friendship Festival, a day of inclusive activities and games for students at all levels of ability from West Michigan elementary and middle CLC Network member schools. Olympic-style games, activities, and worship organized by Jenison Christian eighth-grade students created opportunities for everyone to shine – whether it be in working as a team in “cross-country skiing”, coloring a Friendship Festival bag, trying out hallway “curling”, decorating a cookie with mounds of candy, passing the ball in pool-noodle floor hockey, pushing a teammate on a “bobsled”, or singing praise songs to God. It was a lively event filled with plenty of high-fives, enthusiastic cheering, and encouraging words throughout.

Students participating in "curling"

Kids enjoyed hallway “curling” in these Olympic-style games.

The beauty I experienced during these inclusive games was the genuine attitude of acceptance and understanding that they reflected. As the Friendship Festival theme proclaimed, these young students truly believe that they are “Champions for Christ”. They understand that they are each valued equally in the eyes of God and have God-given gifts to contribute to His Kingdom. It has become a natural way of life for each of them to accept their friend with a learning, cognitive, and/or physical difference. This difference adds to the diversity of their school, and more so, to the diversity of God’s world, shaping their perspective of life for years to come.

IMG_4020Friendship Festival provides a set-apart time for these gifts and friendships to be celebrated and cherished, creating highlights of the year for the many students involved. I’m grateful to have witnessed this glimpse of the Kingdom – a place where each person contributes and belongs. Praise God for that!

Visit our Facebook page for more photos from this event. And learn about our inclusive banquet for high school students at this link.


Katie Barkley ImageKatie Barkley is the marketing communications manager at CLC Network. 

Donor Profile: Kathy and Kurt Heidmann

Meet our friends Kathy and Kurt Heidmann, dedicated CLC Network volunteers, donors and advocates. Learn more about their passion for inclusion in the article below. 

Kathy and Kurt Heidmann“My sister was so social, she would have thrived in an inclusive environment, to have kids go to lunch with her, do activities with her, and be her friends. When I see that in schools today, it is such a joy and a blessing,” shares Kathy Heidmann, a CLC Network volunteer, former board member, donor, and advocate. Kathy’s younger sister, Patti, was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by medical problems and highly social personalities. Patti attended the Pine Rest Children’s Retreat (CLC Network ’s predecessor) until she passed away at age 29.

Years later, Kathy’s parents, Jay and Kathleen Morren, were approached by CLC to help start the inclusion program at Byron Center Christian School in 1992. Kathy also served as a board member from 1998-2001. “It has been so fun to see how far we’ve come to reflect the body of Christ,” Heidmann shares.

With roots in Cutlerville, Michigan, Kathy and her family have helped CLC Network evolve and change throughout its history. “I am grateful for the Pine Rest Children’s Retreat because they recognized that these kids needed Christian education, and they provided it when no one else did. But to see how it’s emerged and become so much more a reflection of God’s Kingdom is really incredible.” In addition, Kathy and Kurt’s four kids attended area Christian schools.

“It blessed my kids to be exposed to inclusive education. I don’t know who it has blessed more: the kids in the program or the kids who walk alongside them,” Kathy reflects. “It broadens their perspective of the body of Christ; of who they are and what their responsibility is.

Kathy’s passion for inclusive education also draws on Romans 12 verses 4-5: For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

“When Patti was growing up, she was always a ‘lesser member’, but really she’s on an equal footing with everyone else. I’m not any better than my sister just because she was born with a disability and I wasn’t. Before Christ we are the same. It makes you look at things a little differently.”

CLC Network has also been grateful to enjoy Kathy and Kurt’s leadership over the years; currently, Kathy serves on the Auction Committee. She shares, “We don’t look at it as a responsibility to support CLC Network; it’s just a privilege. To have an organization like this that is so committed and well-run, we have a real gem. CLC Network isn’t just staying stagnant and doing one thing—you’re trying to reach other communities and trying new things. I think that’s great. “To see the body of Christ worked out in the Christian schools is such an incredible gift,” Kathy states. “I wish more people knew about CLC Network ’s mission and what we do.”

Learn more about our work to create inclusive communities in schools and churches throughout North America on our website, clcnetwork.org

This article originally appeared in the CLC Network Spring 2014 issue of the Inclusive.

Elizabeth pictureElizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the advancement director at CLC Network. 


Inclusion in Action at LaGrave Avenue Church

LaGrave01Inclusion at LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church (Grand Rapids, MI) began with a simple desire to welcome a few members of the congregation who needed extra support.  By equipping staff and the congregation with information, training, and practical ideas and tools to implement, the community at LaGrave became stronger and more representative of the body of Christ.

It begins on the church’s website , where visitors to LaGrave are offered a preview of what they can expect when they arrive (including parking, greeting information, children’s worship, and more). The church has designated a quiet space for attendees to go when they need to move around during the service. The Bible, Hymnal, and bulletin are available in large print, and the Hymnal is even available in Braille! Cushions are ready for friends that might need one for the wooden pews.  Gluten free bread is offered during communion. And a loop hearing system is available for members that need hearing assistance.  In addition, most of the church is wheelchair accessible.

George - LaGrave

George answered Guiding Light Mission’s request for handmade Christmas decorations, spending a weekend crafting a massive paper chain.

The changes at LaGrave have profoundly affected its members’ understanding and acceptance of persons with a wide range of abilities.  Ann Mary Dykstra, Disability Advocate at LaGrave has worked closely with 12-year-old George, a member of the community with Autism Spectrum Disorder. “George is just a part of the church. He’s well liked.” He contributes by collecting and washing the church coffee cups, and enjoys sitting near the organ during postlude.

Ann Mary remembers the training from CLC Network consultants:

“The Church IEP (Individualized Education Plan) crafted by Barbara Newman helped us see George in a different light because it addressed the strengths he had to contribute to our church.”

Equipped with information about his strengths and needs, Ann Mary helped peers and teachers understand how his mind works. Teachers and students relaxed when they learned George’s disability has a name, and that he had designated helpers and a behavioral plan.

We praise God that the community at LaGrave reflects what is described in Romans 12: 4-6: “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…”

Learn more about building inclusive communities at your church on our website.

Katie Barkley ImageKatie Barkley is the marketing communications manager at CLC Network.

Dedicated to Equipping Churches: Meet Donors Ralph and Carol Honderd


Carol and Ralph Honderd on their 50th wedding anniversary.

Today, we’re highlighting a couple that has dedicated many miles and resources to equipping churches and seminaries with information and training on including people with disabilities in faith communities. Learn more about their story and service below.  

As parents of a daughter with severe intellectual disabilities, Ralph and Carol Honderd were determined to use their retirement years to encourage churches to become more intentional in reaching out to families and individuals struggling with the challenges of disabilities. From both personal experience and from talking with other parents, it was obvious to them that pastors and church families were not always aware of the struggles that families of people with disabilities faced.

Nearing retirement, the Honderds decided to purchase a motorhome think­ing that they could use it half the time for visiting churches. But, God had His own plan. For the past 12-13 years, nearly all of their travels in that motorhome have been for sharing resources and developing awareness at both churches and semi­naries. The Honderds have learned that while a special needs program such as Friendship Ministries or our G.L.U.E. Training is usually a lay ministry, it is cru­cial that a pastor be supportive if it is going to be successful.

That understanding has resulted in an expansion and focus of their ministry on seminary visits. This has been highly suc­cessful; it is obvious that this was God’s idea and He has gone before the Honderds, preparing the way.

The Honderds have presently vis­ited more than one hundred seminaries and have experienced amazing results. More often than not they hear, “This is just the right time for you to bring us this informa­tion!” Many seminaries are restructuring to include more practical coursework and/or moving toward more distance learn­ing. The schools appreciate receiving a prepared list of websites that make it eas­ier to find resources for professors and seminarians.

Seminarians have been especially receptive to our DVD course utilizing Barbara J. Newman’s talent and years of experience in disabil­ity and inclusion training. The G.L.U.E. Training Manual and DVD is designed for churches; the Honderds include information about it in resource packets for churches and seminaries. Referencing materials from Friendship Ministries and CLC Network helps make inclusion and disability min­istry seem more accessible, not just some­thing for experts.

Ralph and Carol are particularly passionate about our church services division, and the goal of empowering and encouraging churches to become inclusive communities.

For years Ralph would attend the morning service and I would go alone at night since one of us had to care for our daughter,” Carol recalls. “It can be such a blessing when a husband and wife can simply worship together. There are so many strains on a marriage when you have a child with disabilities, it is important for the church family to provide respite and a welcome.

With the prayers and support of friends like the Honderds, we can offer training, resources, products, and consulting at reduced rates so that churches may welcome people at all levels of ability into God’s kingdom. To learn more or to support our church services division, visit our website or call 616-245-8388. Learn more about the G.L.U.E. Training and even apply to receive it for FREE on our website.

This article originally appeared in the Inclusive – Winter 2012 newsletter

Elizabeth pictureElizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the advancement director at CLC Network. 

Awesome Apps for Your Classroom

How do you find the “right” apps for education when there are more than 1.1 million currently available in Apple’s App Store?

Before You Begin: Apple’s Apps 

Kids using iPadBefore branching out too far, get to know the applications developed by Apple.  Learn how to use apps like Pages and Keynote for productivity, Garageband and iMovie for creativity, and iTunes U as well as iBooks to deliver content.

Most important, it’s good to know the Settings app on your iPad.  You can find everything from general setup to app settings to accessibility features there.

Once you know your iPad, think about the type of apps you’re looking for. Is classroom management a struggle? Do you want your students to easily create works of art? Are you trying to augment a class project? If you know what you’re looking to do, it will be much easier to find helpful apps!

Classroom Management Apps

Although I wouldn’t recommend buying an iPad and a projector just for these, there may be times when your class would benefit from some visual supports like Time Timer or Too Noisy.  In a one-to-one environment, you might use something like Socrative or eClicker for student response.  If you’re on a budget and don’t have student devices, try Plickers.  Other management apps that give you a place to start from are Class DoJo for behavior tracking, TeacherKit for attendance and organization, and Nearpod.

Girls using iPads in classroomContent Specific Apps

There are thousands upon thousands of these types of apps.  Want an app that teaches letter formation?  You’ll have to choose from nearly 1,000.  These apps tend to be more prevalent for elementary aged classrooms (it’s easier to find a good app that will teach the alphabet than algebra).  No matter what you teach, it’s still worth looking for something that will work for you.  Start by searching for relevant categories at Appolearning and Appitic.

Content Creation Apps

There are many apps that allow your students to create content to share with you and others.  Students can use the built-in camera with iMovie to create great videos.  Have them write a book using something like Creative Book Builder and then publish it.  Toontastic is a great way to quickly write, narrate, and animate a story.  The sky is the limit with these types of apps!

Augmented Reality (AR) Apps

This category has been around for a little while, but is just starting to take off.  These apps are really fun and engaging.  Although the content is still a little sparse, be on the lookout for more AR apps in the future.  In the meantime, check out apps like Shape Quest, AR Flashcards, Spacecraft 3D, Elements 4D and more.  If you want to venture into creating your own AR in the classroom, start with Aurasma.

photo credit: flickingerbrad via photopin cc
photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video via photopin cc

Peter Schaafsma photoPeter Schaafsma is the Assistive Technology Consultant for the Wexford-Missaukee ISD. He also leads the youth group at Covenant Life Church in Lake City, MI. Peter lives in Cadillac, MI with his wife and three children.