For Tracy Plaisance, Special Angels Outreach is an “awesome addition” to St. Charles Parish.
Plaisance says it with confidence and enormous gratitude.
It’s where her 22-year-old son, Nicholas, can go during the day and the only day care she’s aware of for her special needs son.
“I think it’s an awesome addition to our parish because, as a parent of a special needs child, people don’t realize how difficult it is to find child care,” said Plaisance. “As they get older, it’s hard for day care and they still need day care at age 21 and 22. You can’t leave them alone.”
Without assistance from the state or family to assist, she said the options are few and particularly toward finding a safe environment that her son also loves.
“What she’s doing is a blessing for a lot of people with disabled children,” Plaisance added.
Nicholas’ brother, Dewayne Plaisance of Ama, agrees.
He is the member of a group called Bloody Decks Fishing holding a rodeo Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 on Grand Isle. It’s their third year holding the event and this year’s proceeds are dedicated to the center.
“I’m very proud of Dewayne and the group for setting a great example for the future,” Plaisance said. “Young people don’t normally think about other people, and they’re putting people before themselves.”
At the center at 201 Post Drive, special needs children have access to video games, toys and soon a Splash Park under construction in the back yard.
The location is the culmination of years of Director Lori Bercegeay and her husband working with the Special Olympics. During that time, she recognized a gap in care for special needs children particularly age 12 to 19.
“They needed more than the Special Olympics and day care center don’t take special needs kids, especially autistic kids,” Bercegeay said. “They’re not staffed for it. So these parents have no place to have their kids to go.”
Bercegeay said they need a place that meets their special needs, as well as provides a fun place for them to socialize.
Once children age out of school, there are few options, she said.
“I find the majority of my kids, who are autistic, are the ones who most need socialization and community opportunities, and skills,” Bercegeay said.
In the case of one client named Matthew who aged out of school last year, his mother panicked over what to do next – until they found the center, she said. The 23-year-old, who initially didn’t want to socialize, now wants to and even asks why other children won’t play with him.
“I opened it up to have a fun and safe place for someone with any disability or age,” she added.
The latest addition to the center is a splash park, an estimated 20 feet by 30 feet, with work started on Monday.
Although Bercegeay doesn’t have all the funds for the project yet, she’s still proceeding with construction.
“I’ll raise the money somehow,” she said. “I’m starting with it.”
Inside, the center is thriving with the sounds of clients playing games, taking each other on at a hockey table and even donning bubble suits that allows them to bounce off each other safely.
“My intention from Day 1 is to provide a place that is free for people with disabilities, and if they can’t pay for it I don’t charge them,” she said. “I don’t get anything out of it other than the pleasure and fun and connection with the kids.”