Fellowship and Mentoring for Special-Needs Teens

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While coordinating a service trip for her son and others with special needs back in 2005, Donna Bunce, a member of Haven Christian Reformed Church in Zeeland, Mich., recognized a desire for teens and young adults with special needs to connect with peers and mentors.

Bunce’s compassion and initiative led to the founding of Compassionate Heart Ministry, which opened its doors in early 2007. Compassionate Heart Ministry enables those with special needs to socialize with peers and gain encouragement from mentors while growing in the knowledge of Christ.

The majority of the students, Bunce said, have cognitive impairments, but some have physical disabilities. She added, “We try to make it inclusive to anyone with a disability.”

Activities for mentors and their students include students attending basketball and hockey games as well as parades in the summer months. During school months, playing Wii, PlayStation, pool, foosball, and air hockey are favorites.

Today the ministry has two staff members, 25 mentors, and 75 students. It is housed at City on a Hill, a complex in Zeeland, Mich., that provides space for non-profit organizations.

Mentors must be 16 years of age, love those with special needs, and love God.

Amy Hoekstra, a member of Calvary CRC in Holland, Mich., sustained a brain injury as a result of cancer treatment. Stephanie Hoekstra, Amy’s mom, laughingly describes Amy as a “charter member” at Compassionate Heart.

Amy’s mom reflected on the ministry. “It’s not what it did for us, but what it does for Amy.”

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