A little support and a lot of love

Nicole Stempak

Awareness week for Hattie Larlham highlights bonds

Jessica Wiley, activities coordinator for Hattie Larlham, talks with Kallie, a resident, during the first half of Saturday’s football game against Iowa State. Jessica M. Kanalas | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Five residents from Hattie Larlham’s assisted living facilities were on the 50-yard line before Saturday’s football game against Iowa State.

“What should we call?” defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis asked them.

Heads, one of the residents said.

The referee flipped the coin. It was heads. Kent State won the toss.

Helen Herold, development associate at Hattie Larlham, said Rekstis spent time with all the residents before the toss.

“He’s busy,” Herold said. “He didn’t need to do that.”

Saturday’s game kicked off Huddle Up for Hattie Larlham, a week of awareness activities at Kent State to support and benefit people with mental disabilities in the community.

“I think most people know about the center in Mantua with 126 residents, but I don’t think people always realize the other programs we have,” Herold said.

She said Hattie Larlham also has an arts center, seven cafés in Summit County and Cleveland, Constant Companions Doggie Day Care and Boarding in Green and Ability at Works Program for those with traumatic brain injury.

Since 2006, Hattie Larlham has had several hundred volunteers from the university who combined for more than 3,000 hours of community service, said Jenna Allen, volunteer coordinator. What’s more, Kent State has increased its volunteering efforts each of the past three years.

Allen said she thinks the relationship between the center and the university is mutually beneficial – a variety of volunteers forge friendships with residents and raise awareness among students.

The activities continue with tables set up outside the M.A.C. Center today from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

• Sororities and fraternities are selling tickets for this Saturday’s game, with half of all presale profits going toward Hattie Larlham.

• Raffle tickets for a Nintendo Wii and Rock Band game, an autographed football by Pittsburgh Steeler and Kent State alum James Harrison, Kent State apparel, two gift baskets from the Hattie Larlham café and four tickets to the homecoming game.

• The week concludes with the raffle ticket drawing at the game.

“By and large, the lot of our residents are in the same age range as students,” she said. “It’s nice for them to spend time with their peers.”

The university awarded Hattie as an outstanding community partner last year at its annual “Making A Difference: Recognizing Kent Staters Who Care” ceremony. For the second year, Fletcher and Manchester halls have chosen Hattie as its volunteer outreach partner.

“There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for them,” said Jackie Haramis, residence hall director for Fletcher and Manchester halls. “We love them.”

Haramis said she enjoys volunteering with Hattie because of the connection she develops with the residents.

“It’s close to my heart being involved with them,” she said, explaining that part of her passion comes from having a relative who is mentally disabled. “I tend to fall in love with the residents. They’re so special to us.

“I take that back to my family and share that with them.”

Herold said the residents didn’t need to verbally tell her how excited they were at the game. She could see it in their smiles and their hand and feet movements.

“This was something very special for them,” she said.

Hattie Larlham didn’t schedule a field trip to this Saturday’s game against Miami, but a group of residents bought tickets to go to the game anyway.

Contact enterprise reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].