Special Buddies

A Children’s Program for Children with Special Needs

Special Needs Children’s Program

The Special Buddies program is a unique program for children with moderate to severe special needs whose parents are attending the convention. Special Buddies staff and volunteers are equipped with the heart and the training to faithfully serve these dynamic individuals and their families.

Available on a case-by-case basis as space is available, Special Buddies reserves the right to recommend other options, possibly including the Children’s Program, if an individual does not fall within the parameters of the Special Buddies program.

The Special Buddies program will offer Bible-based curriculum—with music, crafts, and videos—in an environment with a low staff-to-student ratio. There are a limited number of spaces available for medically fragile children. A nurse will be on duty at all times.

Register for Special Buddies here.

Special Buddies Program Details

Cost: $20 per day
Hours: Friday – 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Saturday – 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Ages: 3 through 11 (chronological age)

Have a heart for children with special needs? Volunteers are always welcome! Become a Special Buddies volunteer here.

Special Buddies FAQs

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Special Buddies FAQs

Is this just some kind of babysitting?

No. We will provide a regular program, including Bible lessons, music, arts and crafts, and fellowship.

What formats will be provided? Will all of the children be in one big room, regardless of age and ability?

The answer depends to some degree on the individual needs of the children who register. Still in its original form, the plan is as follows:

Self-Contained – The room will have volunteers who are screened based on their experience with—as well as their heart for—special-needs children. They will have contacted the Special Buddies coordinator to apply as a full-time volunteer for the weekend. Self-contained children will only leave the room, supervised, for restroom breaks or at lunch when released to a parent. Teens may be a part of the volunteer staff, but trained adults, as well as an on-call nurse, will always be available for supervision.

Medically Fragile – Children who are medically fragile will be served in a self-contained room designated for their care. The room will have a volunteer staff that will include at least one nurse at all times. Teens may be in the room at times to serve as volunteers, but other children will not be in the room, in order to avoid the possibility of inadvertent spontaneous behavior that could put the medically fragile children at risk for injury. The volunteer staff will not administer any medications or tube feedings to children in this room. Parents will be asked to return to the room to take care of those needs. The nurses will be available for suctioning and for monitoring medical needs such as seizure activity. A parent or caregiver will be able to remain in the room during the lunch hour in order to feed their child. 

My child requires electrical outlets for his/her monitoring devices. Will those be available?


How will the Special Buddies staff know if there is a need in another room for extra help?

The room leader’s role is to oversee the general welfare of the children. Each room will have access to the coordinator via cell phones at all times.

How will I know if you need me?

Parents will be required to give the Special Buddies leaders a cell phone number that will be on for the duration of the convention. Please set your phone to vibrate if you attend a workshop. Should the Special Buddies staff need you, they will call your cell phone.

What will lunchtime look like?

We need to be sensitive to the needs of our volunteer staff. Please pick up your child promptly according to the schedule in the convention program. Greater Richmond Convention Center regulations prohibit bringing in outside food except for health reasons. You may purchase your own lunch within the convention center and eat it with your child in the Special Buddies room. However, staff will not be available during lunch. NOTE: Only the parent or caregiver may eat with the child; there is not space to accommodate other family members. Please also consider that your child will be in that room all day and might benefit from a short walk to another area of the building or even outside.

What materials will be used for the lessons and activities?

The Special Buddies Program will be using a program that may be reviewed here.

What kind of training will the staff have?

Although most of the volunteers will have previous experience with special needs children, on Thursday afternoon the Special Buddies staff will assemble for training aimed specifically at being prepared for the convention and the children who will be in the program. Jessica Williams will lead this training. Specific needs may be addressed by other knowledgeable individuals, such as training by staff with medical experience for those who will work with medically fragile children. The detailed information provided by the registration form helps the trainers prepare the staff for meeting the needs of your child. This is one reason why registration is mandatory.

Can we meet in advance the people who will work with our child?

Yes! HEAV will host an open house on Thursday at the convention center where the Special Buddies will meet. You are encouraged to come to this event to meet the staff, ask questions, and bring supplies that your child may need, as well as special items that might help your child’s transition easier the next morning. We encourage you to attend this event. Bringing supplies in advance will help your morning go more smoothly. Bringing familiar items in advance will help your child feel secure the next day. And, of course, meeting the staff is important, for both you and your child, so your child is not left with a stranger in the morning. It will also allow you to give specific instructions to the individual who is assigned to your child. Another advantage to coming Thursday night is that HEAV will have the registration lines open so that you can pick up your materials there (lanyard, program, bag, etc.). Doing so on Thursday will make your Friday transition smoother—you can drop off your child and head straight for the Exhibit Hall or workshop of your choice without having to stand in line!  “

Can I leave my child in the Special Buddies so I can attend the evening events?

Special Buddies ends at 6 p.m. “Buddies” must be picked up on time because the children will likely be very tired by that time–and also out of consideration for our volunteers. Special Buddies volunteers leave at 6:30 p.m.