TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A non-profit organization that advocates for the Down syndrome and special needs communities in the Tampa Bay area is headed to the Big Game come February, but it does so much more for families as well.
The organization called F.R.I.E.N.D.S. stands for “Families, Respect, Inspire, Education Network for Down syndrome & Special needs.”
The nonprofit, which was founded in 2007, provides support, resources and activities for people with Down syndrome and other special needs and those who support them.
To raise funds, special needs self-advocates and other volunteers have been working at a concession stand at Raymond James Stadium called “Sideline Salsa” during Buccaneers games.
Ann Foyt is a full-time nurse and the executive director of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. She explained how fundraising efforts during the season, and soon, the Big Game, works.
“Legends, who runs the hospitality at Raymond James, gives us so much money per person who shows up to volunteer, and then we get a percentage of the sales,” she said.
Foyt said the opportunity is great because they can make money for themselves and not have to ask for donations. She said it’s also something that gives volunteers a sense of pride, working an eight-hour shift. Her son Zachary, 22, who has Down syndrome, is one of those proud volunteers.“Of course, we wanted to bring our self-advocates into it. Zach was all pumped up, he loves the Bucs and he comes in when they start and he fills up the ice for the drinks, he gets all of the stuff out of the back and loads up all of the containers for the water and the soda and the beer. The other self-advocates help with the nachos, putting them together. They also help with cleaning, that’s a big one,” Foyt said.