Pride of the Pine Belt: ARC volunteer awarded volunteer of the year

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Association for the Rights of Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, also known as ARC, is a non-profit organization. It's devoted to providing community based programs to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The volunteers of the organization are a big part of that, and one volunteer says he spends every weekend giving his time to the kids and adults of ARC.

Oak Grove Senior, Michael Foley, believes these children have changed his perspective on life.

"You can't take anything for granted, ya know?"

Foley says he was introduced to the Association for the Rights of Citizens with Developmental Disabilities months ago by a family friend.

"Actually, I was looking for a service learning project for school, and they suggested trying the ARC," said Foley.

Foley remembers his first interaction with the children and adults of ARC.

"I came through the door that day, and people were just starting to get up from the night before, and I just got bombarded with hugs that day,"said Foley.

Now, Foley comes every weekend.

"I interact with them a lot we have fun together. We find things to do. We try to get them exposed to the general public, get them to interact with other people," said Foley.

This isn't just a way to pass the time. The ARC and volunteers make a real difference. Foley says he's witness one child's developments improve in one summer.

"At the beginning of it, he has cerebral palsy among several other things, he could barely walk. He had a lot of trouble walking. He only knew about ten words, he was ten years old, knew about ten words. By the end of the summer adventure, he could walk on his own and he knew about 30 to 35 words,"said Foley.

Foley say the credit for that child's improvements goes to the ARC, but Foley received recognition of his own at the end of the summer.

"I received volunteer of the year award at the end of the summer adventures program," said Foley.

He acknowledges the ARC even when talking of his own award.

"I mean, it ain't about me. That award didn't mean much to me, you know. I mean it is just all about  what I need to do to here for these kids,"said Foley.

Foley says he can't imagine not being a part of ARC. He hopes to continue his volunteer work beyond high school.

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