Natural Ties matches students, disabled

| Erika Hall reporter |

Kelsey Peckman gives Eddy, an adult with developmental disabilities, a high-five after winning Bingo, on Monday, Feb. 2, at a Natural Ties gathering.
“Good job, Eddy,” the sophomore in nursing said, encouraging him.

Students share a night of bingo with special needs participants on Monday Feb. 3 with the club Natural Ties.

Students share a night of bingo with special needs participants on Monday Feb. 3 with the club Natural Ties.

A typical Monday night here means playing games and other fun activities for about an hour or so. On this particular Monday, though, only three members showed up for the 13 disabled adults who attended.
JoAnna Dieker, president of Natural Ties, says, “We really need more members to provide for all of our participants; it’s really hard to give everyone the equal attention they deserve when there are so few of us here.”
The Natural Ties organization at PSU is devoted to building friendships among college students and adults with developmental disabilities, who are also referred to as Ties.
Dieker says she started coming to the program when she was looking for a way to help others and get involved in the Pittsburg community.
“… It’s fun and easy, you don’t have to do anything, really. You just give them your time,” Dieker said.
“The Ties look forward to meeting every week,” she said. “It really makes their day better and it gets them out in the community. Students only have to devote a little bit of their time to make a huge difference in the Ties’ lives. The activities we do are fun and easy, but they bring so much joy to their lives.”
Typical activities are making crafts, playing bingo, listening to music, dancing, playing board games, putting puzzles together, having snacks, and even having holiday-themed parties that will soon include making Valentines.
It all started when a University of Kansas student named Patrick Hughes befriended Jay Turnbull, a man with developmental disabilities who worked on campus. Hughes introduced Turnbull to his fraternity, and he was eventually made an honorary member. From there, the Natural Ties organization was born.
Phil Marineau, chief operating officer of Quaker Oats, said in a YouTube interview that any college student could benefit from being involved with Natural Ties.
“… It can only be a phenomenal learning experience at a critical time in your life that will carry over to not only how you deal with disabled people, but with how you deal with all sorts of groups of people who are different than you are.”
Samantha Reynolds, vice president of Natural Ties, says the experience has taught her a lot about patience.
“…But mostly it is just really easy and fun,” she said.
Peckman says she has learned from the program as well.
“(I’ve learned) there are a lot of people out there who are really sweet and they’ve taught me so much, and they really do enjoy it, they just love spending time with us.”
Dieker echoed this sentiment:
“I have made many friendships with the Ties that I cherish. I’ve learned that people can benefit from just engaging in simple fun activities with others, and we all benefit from friendship.”
Natural Ties is open to all students, regardless of major. Meetings are at 6:30p.m. Mondays in the basement of the Overman Student Center.

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