The Auburn Public Library was full of people hoping to see the photography exhibit promoting disability awareness and inclusion on Friday. With the excited parents, family and friends all there to see the exhibit, laughter and contagious joy filled the room.
The official gallery opening was at 3 p.m. with several special guests in attendance, including Aubie himself. Pictures included different scenes around Auburn University that the students had taken. Each one was unique, looking at the area in different ways.
The exhibit was presented by the members of Bravehearts Center for
Place and Purpose.
“I got each person that is in Bravehearts to take me to their own pictures to show me which one was their favorite and why, so they could tell me the story behind it," said Miss Auburn Ashley Moates. "They are all very proud of them as they should be because they are all beautiful. It has been so much fun.”
The group's purpose is to create a model program that is centered on health and wellness for young, special needs adults who have aged out of the school system. Another goal is to give them a safe place that gives a sense of belonging and structure while at the same time building a community that is more inclusive and comfortable with the variety of people out there.
“This program is made with the mind of a social worker and the heart of a mother,” said Auburn professor Angie Burque. “I consider my son the mascot for this whole thing.”
BCPP meets every Tuesday through Friday from 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m., and gets members moving by walking every morning.
“When we started a year ago, they were walking a mile to a mile and a half. Now, they are walking 2 to 2 1/2 miles in the morning,” Burque said.
In the spring on Thursday afternoons, they take walks where the students take their cameras and volunteers teach them to work the cameras.
“The beauty of this is that most people who participate have communication challenges," Burque said. "They can understand a lot more than they are able to express in the way most people are used to. This is a beautiful way for them to tell you how they see in the world and what they observe."
Community sponsors can sign up for a month. The sponsors are usually from a club that sends volunteers during that month to go on the walks or run events. They even had the Auburn soccer team come and run drills.
The organization also has three drives a year. The Auburn Bookstore helps with a canned food drive, and the fire station volunteers for a toy drive. They also collected over a hundred blankets last year for the poor and elderly in the community.
Most people involved in the program spend a large amount of their time with the students or serving them in other ways.
“This has been a part of who I am forever; I have always been committed to and passionate about those who are outside the circle,” Burque said.