It’s believed to be a first of it’s kind concept on the South Shore. A unique club just for girls with intellectual and developmental disabilities – that is free and open to all.
One Friday night a month, St. John’s Church in Duxbury is full of music and laughter.
Teenage girls dancing may not seem like anything out of the ordinary, but for the girls in this room, it is a rare chance to make friends in a safe space and feel included. No boys allowed. No inhibitions.
18 year old Esme Polischuk goes to Duxbury High. She says the dance party gives her the chance to “get her sillies” out.
Kristie Dean co-founded the group when Esme’s mom confided in her she was having a hard time finding social opportunities for Esme, who has an intellectual disability and a sensory syndrome. And “The Soulful Girls Club” was born.
“So the goal is for the girls to have a place to go, on a weekend, to connect with peers and to create a social life of their own, said Dean. “So something I hear from parents over and over again from moms and caregivers of our girls is they have programs. They get to play sports. They go to school. But the weekend comes and they have no way to connect with friends. They have nowhere to create a social life. And as we know for teenagers, social life is huge and it’s just as important for these girls and they deserve that space,” said Dean.
Esme’s mom says it is helping these girls through what can be an emotional and challenging time in their lives.
“My daughter has gotten a lot of confidence. I’ve seen her become more social, more empowered. Last week I watched her get up in front of the girls and sing a song, and before she wouldn’t have done that,” said Kyle Polischuk, Esme’s mom and co-founder of the group.
Parents are able to drop their daughters off and enjoy a few hours to themselves. It is a much deserved break that’s often rare for special needs parents. And it gives the girls an outlet and a space where they are making new friends while enjoying activities that are geared towards their individual levels and strengths.
Mia Littlehale is 15 and goes to Duxbury High.
“We do fun things like dancing and play and decorating drawing and making bracelets and we do yoga and we do fun things like that,” said Mia. She said she’d love to do a group field trip – like to a Taylor Swift concert! (And if Taylor Swift sees this story — maybe she can help make that happen, since we all know how impossible it is to get Taylor Swift tickets!)
Some of the girls are able to express themselves more than others.. Some are non-verbal.
There are about 15 “regulars” on any given Friday night plus an army of volunteer “angels” who make it all possible. They hope other communities who see this story will start their own clubs.
As Mia put it: “I just love being part of my South Shore and Massachusetts community, and making so many good friends from all over!”
The Soulful Girls Club is only one program of Kristie’s “Soul Project.” They also offer a service club, workshops and a summer wellness retreat for regularly abled girls, and a free monthly women’s circle. If you’d like to register go to the link here. You can also visit The Soul Project Stories on Instagram.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.