The Division of Volunteer Efforts at Seton Hall University hosted a luau-themed carnival, welcoming adults with developmental disabilities to campus. Various organizations and group homes throughout Essex, Bergen, Somerset and Passaic Counties join the University three times a year to offer these themed events which include carnival games, prizes, music and refreshments.
The Division of Volunteer Efforts (DOVE) introduced these carnivals at its very start in 1991. One of the original DOVE founders, Jeanine Cavanagh '88/M.A. '90, had been inspired by a program called "Camp Fatima" to develop events that cater to individuals with special needs.
Camp Fatima is based in Harrison, NJ and holds that "everyone has the right to experience play in his or her lives." To that end, the camp hosts spring, summer, and fall sessions free of charge for adults and children with disabilities.
The DOVE carnivals are meant to mirror Camp Fatima's mission. DOVE staff and student volunteers come together to create a fun night out in an inclusive and welcoming environment. Amanda Cavanagh, Assistant Director of DOVE and daughter of founder Jeanine Cavanagh, assists with organizing the carnivals each semester.
"We usually hold three carnivals a year. We host Halloween in the fall semester and Valentine's Day and a Luau in the spring semester," says Cavanagh. "Holidays and events can often be overwhelming for adults and children with special needs, and we want to provide a safe space for them to celebrate."
The 2019 spring luau took place in Bethany Hall. There were tables for games, prizes, temporary tattoos, and sensory activities including a balloon toss and kinetic sand. The tables were run by students who volunteer with DOVE.
"My favorite part about these events is seeing how communities come together and form something great. It is a part of my journey as a Seton Hall student," says DOVE volunteer Daniel O'Shea, a sophomore in the School of Diplomacy. "These carnivals break down barriers and encourage development for all the student volunteers."
Several group homes attended this year's luau, including multiple branches of The Arc. The Arc is an organization that "provides a lifetime of comprehensive services, advocacy and support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities." Various homes within the Allegro School system, a special needs program based in Hanover, NJ, also joined in the evening's festivities.
Cynthia Smith, a caretaker who currently works with The Arc of Essex, has been attending the DOVE carnivals for several years.
"I love it here. The staff and students are wonderful with our clients," says Smith. "They're having fun."
Categories: Faith and Service