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Darien's FunBusters Fills a Special Need

When Brian McArdle was asked to start an after-school social recreation program for kids with special needs, he had no idea how close the group would become. Almost 30 years later, FunBusters does more than teach independence and life skills to people with special needs. It provides them with long-lasting friendships as well.

"We're like a family," says Kevin Piro, a group member since 1997. He says what makes the program so great is the staff -- McArdle and Amy Scott. "Amy's like a den mother to us all, and Brian's like an older brother-father figure."

The current group members are all from Darien and Stamford and have been together over 10 years. Some have been members since the creation of the program. Many have jobs and live in group homes or individual apartments.

McArdle and Scott are both teachers at Middlesex Middle School . FunBusters, which is affiliated with the YMCA , meets a couple times a week at Noroton Presbyterian Church and the Depot . McArdle said, "They all set individual and group goals with the aim of trying to attain independence," McArdle says of the members.

Last Thursday, the group threw a party for all members whose birthday falls during the summer, when they don't meet. The eight guys who attended spent the evening talking, laughing, dancing and enjoying sandwiches and cake donated by Kevin Smith and Katherine Bresson of the Stop & Shop on Heights Road.

The closeness group members have with one another is immediately apparent when one sees them interact. As they entered the Depot for the party, everyone was excited to see one another and spend time together. Scott, who has been with the program for 12 years, says, "It's like having nine younger brothers."

Do you know about any programs similar to the FunBusters? Tell us about it in the comments below, on Facebook and on Twitter .

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