A local group is confident its growing community support will help make an upcoming family event successful.
BLAST (Bold Loving Affirming Supportive Together) will host its second BLASTfest from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 5, at 14959 Buchanan Trail East, Blue Ridge Summit.
Since its inception in 2021, the nonprofit group has been dedicated to providing activities to area children and adults with special needs to the theme, blasting glass ceilings and helping neighbors with special abilities thrive.
“Having a support system in the community has been number one for us,” according to Annie Yorty of Waynesboro, a member of the organization and mother of Alyssa, who has Down Syndrome. “We are a group of friends supporting each other. We’re all in the same boat and we help each other out.”
Admission is free to the upcoming “carnival like” event, which will feature games with prizes, concessions, raffles (over 50 prizes) – online and in person – a bounce house, music, providers that serve the disabled community, and police and fire personnel. “There will be all kinds of great activities. We’re also working on getting a health screening set up. Please join us and have a fun time,” Yorty added.
In just a few years, the organization has made strides with its numerous outreach activities. Many of the events are held at Otterbein Church Park and Community Center on Welty Road in Waynesboro. “A lot of this would be impossible if the people of Otterbein Church didn’t give us a place to meet. It’s just a huge thing for us. Others in the community have provided funding for events and activities and that means a lot to people who feel like they’re on the margins or unwelcome. Now they’re feeling welcome, supported and appreciated by the community.
Baseball is offered Saturday mornings for 12 weeks in the spring and fall at Otterbein Church Park. “There are people of all age groups and all abilities and people in wheelchairs who are helped around the field by volunteers. Everyone gets in on it. It’s a really popular activity.
“We also partner with Special Olympics bringing more of their activities to Waynesboro. Bowling was in Chambersburg and now it’s held at Sunshine Lanes in Rouzerville, from October to January, for people of all abilities, 8 and older. It makes a huge difference being closer to home. Transportation is an issue and you can usually find a ride to an event a few minutes to home, when you can’t get to Chambersburg.”
Socials are held every month in the community center at Otterbein Church Park as well as other locations. “Churches have partnered with us, and we have parties for holidays, dances, karaoke, bingo and games, etc.,” noted Yorty.
BLAST partners with Otterbein Church the first Sunday of the month for a service designed for individuals who are unable to attend a regular service. It is staffed by volunteers “who know how to handle their needs … to make them feel comfortable and it allows their caregivers to go to a regular service,” she added.
The group often has floats in downtown Waynesboro parades and this year will sponsor a Christmas tree as part of the Waynesboro Lioness Club display on the square at The Counting House. There will be a Christmas party Dec. 15 at Otterbein Church Community Center.
“We are in the beginning phases of planning an inclusive playground for Waynesboro at Rotary Park on Eighth Street with specialized equipment for people with physical or intellectual disabilities. We’re doing initial fundraising and making a layout, so that we can go forward and request grants.”
BLAST has provided a social outlet for its adult members. “Once a child comes out of the school system and enters the adult world, there’s very little for them to do recreationally in the community,” Yorty said. “This organization has helped change lives.”
For more information visit:
blastofwaynesboro.com online or on Facebook