Children’s Relief Fund Celebrates 25 years of Helping Special Needs Children
Author: Special to CH2
CRF Founder Rose Fotia with one of her “kids.”
20th Annual Evening of Love Valentine’s Dinner Dance Feb. 13
Once again, as it has for the past 19 years, the Lowcountry community will gather for An Evening of Love to celebrate Valentine’s Day and the Children’s Relief Fund. This year’s dinner dance is planned for February 13 at the Sonesta Resort on Hilton Head Island.
For 25 years, the Children’s Relief Fund, founded by Rose and Frank Fotia, has been helping the Lowcountry’s special needs children and their families through programs and financial support.
“Every child is special,” Rose Fotia said. “Ours just need a little more help than others.”
Success has brought new challenges for CRF. As the special needs children age out of existing programs, new ones have to be created. One in particular has everyone very excited.
The mission of Pockets Full of Sunshine, a new non-profit spearheaded by two local teachers, is to make Beaufort County a sunnier place by employing intellectually and physically disabled adults. Started two years ago with an inventory of recycled by-products of a splined shaft that look like small yellow sunshines, an idea was born. The sunshines are recycled and being made into greeting cards, gift tags, magnets and stationery. Proceeds from the sales will be put toward opening an eco-friendly, community craft center, fully staffed by intellectually and physically disabled adults.
Children’s Relief Fund has been a strong collaborator and financial supporter of this new initiative. Carol Bartholomew, long-time CRF board member and mother of a special needs daughter, is committed to its success.
“Our goal is to open a Sunshine House that will recycle materials and provide special needs adults with vocational and employment opportunities,” Bartholomew said. “It is daunting, but we have always dreamed big at Children’s Relief Fund.”
The Fotias have been working for our special needs neighbors since they realized there were limited local resources for their special needs son, Gregory. Today, new initiatives have been increasingly found in the form of collaborations with local businesses and organizations.
“This is an incredible community with many generous people,” Fotia said. “We ask and they say ‘yes.’”
Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Bluffton is one such organization. At the start of the school year, a group of volunteers and Principal Amanda O’Nan determined to make dance a part of the special education program at Hilton Head High School. Sandro Virag, owner of Fred Astaire, quickly agreed to donate his time, his dance studio and financial support to offer 20-25 students a monthly dance session. Children’s Relief Fund underwrote the cost of the transportation. The students have now dubbed themselves the “Dancing Seahawks.”
Another recent collaboration with the Island Rec Center has led to a new after-school program for a group of special needs children.
CRF fulfills both tangible and intangible needs for local families, providing funding for much-needed equipment such as wheelchairs, prosthetics and medical supplies, and financial support for physical, occupational, behavioral and speech therapies as well as life-enriching programs.
Programs supported by CRF include Special Olympics, Heroes on Horseback, a summer camp, and Fish with Friends.
All of these initiatives bring additional fundraising challenges to the Children’s Relief Fund. But Fotia has never backed away from a challenge that would benefit her kids, and she’s not about to start now.
“We have wonderful support that grows as our community grows. Unfortunately, our needs are greater than ever, with a higher incidence of autism and children who are aging out of existing programs,” she said.
The annual Valentine’s Dinner Dance has brought a spotlight to the Children’s Relief Fund for 20 years and raised the funds for its programs. This year, An Evening of Love includes roses, chocolates, hors d’oeuvres, wine, a sit-down dinner, professional New York dinner show entertainment, music and dancing, and live and silent auctions.
The Valentine Dinner Dance is on Saturday, February 13, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sonesta Resort, Hilton Head Island, in Shipyard Plantation. Tickets are $125 per person.
For information, tickets or personal or corporate donations/sponsorships, please call Rose Fotia at (843) 681-7668 or (843) 342-5267 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.