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‘We Care’ about community members with special needs

Antioch-02/16/13 Sat./Antioch Senior Center Darlene ClausAntioch points out ceiling fan as Charles NelsLake Villgets ready launch plane Saturday Antioch Senior

Antioch-02/16/13, Sat./Antioch Senior Center Darlene Clauson, of Antioch points out a ceiling fan as Charles Nelson, of Lake Villa gets ready to launch a plane Saturday at the Antioch Senior Center. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 19, 2013 2:20AM

The American Association of Retired Person’s Motto is “To Serve, not to be Served,” and that philosophy was on display Saturday at the Antioch Area Senior Center.

The Antioch AARP hosted a luncheon and day of activities including crafts and music for “We Care,” a Lake County group that assists special-needs residents and their parents. We Care’s main goal is to help those with special needs have fun and interact, and the AARP provides events for the group to do just that.

“It gives us an opportunity to share our time and creativity,” said Antioch AARP president Susan Saam. “Once these people get out of the school system side of things, their social interaction is limited. It’s something we like to provide.”

About 10 AARP members helped run Saturday’s event, hosting a group of about 30 We Care members. The group made glider planes out of paper plates and other materials, shared lunch and then participated in musical activities.

Mary Brander of Round Lake Beach attended the event with her son Nate, 19, who has autism spectrum disease and will soon graduate from Grayslake North and hopes to begin a transitional program toward independent living. Mary and Nate said the events are a fun outlet for both of them.

“It’s great for Nate, and it’s really good for me to interact with people who know what I’m going through,” she said.

It’s a really neat club,” Nate said of We Care. I’ve been in it a couple of years. It includes people of all ages and disability types.”

Nate describes himself as a “railroad nut,” who loves both model trains and the railroad industry. He said his cousin drives freight trains and that he hopes to be in the business himself one day.

Lois Mueller, one of the founding members of We Care, was at Saturday’s luncheon although her daughter Susan, who had down syndrome and was a We Care member, died last year from complications at 43. Mueller said We Care has been going for more than 30 years and she is proud of its accomplishments, including the annual summer bowling league the group hosts for its members at Kristof’s in Round Lake Beach.

Meuller said she is happy to continue working with the group.

“I generally started it and got it all going, so why drop off now,” she said. “I’m 83 so I’m staying.”

AARP secretary Sharon Nowak of Antioch also lost a child to a disability and is glad AARP is able to join forces with We Care. She is a member of both groups.

“I wanted to help the kids, and the AARP wanted to do something for them,” she said.

Nowak brought Karen Chenowech, 48, a special-needs neighbor and close friend of her family and kids, to Saturday’s event. Chenowech is an enthusiastic We Care member.

“This is just fun with all of your friends,” Karen said, adding that she was planning to help clean up the tables after the event. “It’s fun to be with people.”

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