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DDS Staff Make Creative First Connections During Community FestivalDate: 06/05/2019
Amanda Smith and April Nichols, wearing matching sky blue t-shirts, patiently and quietly manned their booth at the Little Rock Therapeutic Arts Festival, waiting for a chance to tell people about First Connections.
The two Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) First Connections staff members had a goal to promote the program during the festival, which uses the arts and physical activities to uplift kids who have a developmental disability. But early on, folks basically ignored the duo.
“Most of the kids were passing right by us to do other things like dancing and rock climbing,” Smith said.
Suddenly, Smith looked at Nichols with an idea to try and steal the spotlight.
“We decided to put on paper glasses, make our own bedazzled masks, and wear them to bring attention to our booth,” Smith said. “Next thing I know, we’re surrounded by kids who also wanted a mask. With every mask we made, we gave out information about First Connections.”
The festival proved to be perfect exposure for First Connections. It's a program that creates, implements, and provides developmental services for families and their children – birth to age three – who have special needs.
“People really need to know about First Connections because of what it offers and the impact it can have for a family,” Nichols said. “That’s why I’m glad we had a great day at the festival networking with other providers, programs, teachers, and parents.”
This was First Connections’ first time participating in the festival. The event showed Nichols why her job is so important.
“Working with those children and seeing their joy was priceless,” she said. “It reminded me of why I love helping people and being a positive presence.”
It was a mission accomplished for this team working in tandem.
“Our goal was to bring awareness to First Connections and interact with kids,” Smith said. “Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces while they designed their masks gave me a feeling of completion; like I did my part to help the people of Arkansas.”
For more information about First Connections, go to https://humanservices.arkansas.gov/about-dhs/ddds/childrens-services-information.