Northeast Tarrant

Clubhouse for Special Needs gets much-needed help

Chantel Griggs, right, plays a game with assistant director Barbara Freeborn at the Clubhouse for Special Needs in Bedford.
Chantel Griggs, right, plays a game with assistant director Barbara Freeborn at the Clubhouse for Special Needs in Bedford. Star-Telegram

When Darlene Hollingsworth founded the Clubhouse for Special Needs almost 10 years ago, she wanted to provide a place where disabled children could be independent.

But when she organized outings to the nearby Boys Ranch Activity Center, she ran in to obstacles because there weren’t sidewalks, which was problematic for children in wheelchairs.

“If we wanted to go to the boys ranch, it was like planning a field trip; we had to arrange to use cars to take the kids,” she said.

But things are about to change as construction will start soon on a sidewalk that will run from the clubhouse at 1308 Harwood Road to the activity center.

The H-E-B Chamber of Commerce leadership class chose the Clubhouse for Special Needs as its special project, which includes the building of the sidewalk and donating other items such as art supplies and a washer and dryer so that children can learn how to do laundry independently. The leadership is also donating landscaping for the building.

“By having the sidewalk, we can walk to the Boys Ranch,” Hollingsworth said. “That in itself is awesome and amazing.

Tom Hoover, Bedford’s public works director and a member of the chamber’s leadership class, said the sidewalk will not only be helpful for wheelchair-bound children, but also for residents who live northwest of the Boys Ranch.

“This is a win-win for everyone, and the City Council authorized us to go forward,” Hoover said.

Hollingsworth, who is president and founder of the Clubhouse for Special Needs, formed the nonprofit organization in 2006 after realizing there were no day-care or after-school programs in Northeast Tarrant County for her son Jonathan, who was 13 at the time and has Down syndrome.

There are programs for younger children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities, but nothing for young people who are 13 to 22 years old, Hollingsworth said.

In December 2013, Hollingsworth moved the clubhouse to a former preschool that had been vacant for four years.

The community came through with funding, and a local artist, Alice Short. created a mural of a Western town including a schoolhouse, railroad and sheriff’s office. The Western theme sets the tone for the rest of the building with its Rusty Nail Cafe, where the children have snacks, and the “roundup corral” where teens can play air hockey or exercise.

Holingsworth did not want to create an “institutional” environment.

Most children who come to the clubhouse during the day or after school are from the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area, but some are from Colleyville and Southlake. Most families are middle to lower income, Hollingsworth said.

The Clubhouse for Special Needs accepts children who are “high functioning” and can get to the various rooms in the building without help. The staff monitors their activities, but the children are encouraged to play independently and think for themselves, she said.

Martha Spahr, who lives in Colleyville, was desperate to find after-school care for her son Ethan, 12, who also has Down syndrome. She found the clubhouse while searching online.

“Ethan has just blossomed since he’s been coming to the clubhouse. He is playing with the other kids and making friends,” Spahr said.

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696

Twitter: @fwstliz

How to help

▪ A barbecue dinner and a silent auction to benefit the Clubhouse for Special Needs will be at 6 p.m. Saturday at Texas Star Golf Course in Euless.