Live in the Yakima Valley - Special Services for Special Kids: Part II

Joe Schmitt

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Joe Schmitt

Joe Schmitt writes a weekly blog called The Good Life, featuring information about the region’s history, culture, climate and economy.  The blog also showcases new residents, clubs and organizations, outdoor recreational opportunities and local events.



Special Services for Special Kids: Part II

June 30, 2010

Sometimes, special needs services don’t necessarily mean therapy. Serving children with special needs can mean having fun — playing games and making friends. Serving their families can mean offering a chance to connect.

Families and Fun with Parent to Parent: 

Alex JohnsonEvery Friday for six weeks, a group of kids gathered at Yakima School of Karate (YSK) for a unique opportunity, thanks to a program called One 2 One. They learned the same punches, kicks, and defensive techniques that any karate student would learn in an introductory class despite the fact that, without the support of volunteer teen mentors, they would have been unable to meet the physical and emotional demands of a standard martial arts class.  “They learned all the karate basics, they really loved the obstacle course and they practiced a kata,” says Tracie Hoppis, coordinator of the Yakima chapter of Parent to Parent, an international, nonprofit organization offering support, information and programming to families of children with special needs.  Two instructors from YSK volunteered their time to teach the class. Both Yakima teens, Alex Johnson and Elise Holbrook earned their black belts at YSK. One 2 One, one of many programs provided by Parent to Parent, trains teen mentors to support children, ages six to 21, with developmental challenges, allowing them to participate in recreational activities they may otherwise not have access to. Whether it’s swimming lessons or softball, they have a chance to be a kid like any other, making friends, learning new skills and gaining self-esteem. In addition to karate classes, One 2 One offers other year-round, organized recreational activities such as soccer, basketball, gymnastics, dance, and a summer kids’ club. Mentors can also support kids during recreational activities not sponsored by One 2 One.

Parent to Parent provides a wide range of programs in addition to One 2 One, including individual and group support for parents, information, and education and social activities. Brothers and sisters of children with special needs can participate in Sibshops, monthly meeting to connect with others who relate to their unique perspectives. From scrapbooking and socials to support groups, parents find a chance to connect with others who share their concerns, challenges, and joys. “Just last week, a mom and her son, new to Yakima, came to one of our groups,” says Hoppis. “It can be such a relief to make that connection with other parents who understand your needs, who get it.”

Hosted by Children’s Village, Parent to Parent provided support and information to 557 Yakima Valley families last year, both English and Spanish speaking. With newly expanded space at Children’s Village, Hoppis looks forward to what the program can become. “In the new Parent to Parent office, we'll have a separate 'family room' where we can meet with parents and caregivers individually to provide support and information; this room will also allow us to facilitate smaller more intimate parent gatherings” she says.

For more information about Parent to Parent, email

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"I've lived in Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, but the people in this community are like non-other, they're truly family." - Sherpri Small, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic