In 1998, in memory of his son, a man named Jim Toomey wanted to do something to help the special needs children of Socastee High School, Horry County, South Carolina. Mr. Toomey was a member of a group called the South Strand Veterans who played golf together once a week. The group decided to help out by making one of their golf days into a tournament to raise money for the cause. This tournament became an annual event and, over time, the event developed into a charity called Toomey’s Kids.
As the charity became more organized, the scope of it grew. Starting with one class of about 10 special needs children in one school, by 2006 the charity was helping 140 students in eight schools, and in 2010, Toomey’s Kids is supporting 200 special needs children in 22 classes in 17 schools throughout Horry and Georgetown Counties. The charity remains totally staffed by part-time volunteers, with no paid employees.
The children who are classified as Special Needs in the State of South Carolina include many different disabilities, including Autism, Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Blind, Deaf, Non-Verbal, Seizure Disorders, Orthopedic Disabilities and Paralysis, etc. The children are in self-contained classrooms within the schools and follow specialized curriculums aimed at maximizing their capabilities. In many cases, this includes life skills such as personal hygiene, how to cook or do the laundry, how to go to a store and manage their money, how to order a meal and behave in a restaurant, etc. The students remain in the school system until the age of 21, when they must graduate.
Toomey’s Kids contributes to the needs and education of these students by supplying funds and equipment needed in the classrooms, as well as sponsoring field trips and outings for life skills training. Funds are supplied to the teachers to support class field trips and activities such as swimming lessons and trips to compete in the Special Olympics, and to supplement the funds received from the school system for classroom supplies. Equipment supplied to the teachers and classroom include specialized items such as aquatic wheelchairs, wheelchair accessible picnic tables, and specialized playground equipment, as well as generalized items such as Smart Boards, hand held computers, TV’s, DVD players, etc. Field trips and outings include bowling, fishing, miniature golf, Ripley’s Aquarium, and Christmas Parties.
Although Toomey’s Kids has expanded considerably over the past few years, we have just scratched the surface of what needs to be done. There are over 500 special needs children in Horry County alone, and an equivalent number in Georgetown County. To be able to reach all of these children, we need to greatly increase our funding base. Therefore, in 2007, Toomey’s Kids became a Federal and State recognized 501( c)(3) non-profit charitable organization and in 2010 we launched our website. We are looking forward to expanding our work and helping many more special needs children in the future.