“The parenting plan alone has been challenging, but the heartache that ensues as your child goes through life misunderstood, labeled as weird and rejected by the very peer group that should be the safest (church), can be overwhelming,” said Ann, whose son Aaron is on the High Functioning Autism Spectrum (HFAS). “Aspies, or those affected by HFAS, are amazingly gifted and possess unique abilities from God. Advocate for these children and do so with vigor that educates mainstream families that are untouched by HFAS.”
Erin’s Hope for Friends is the advocate this mother’s heart cries out for. Darren and Stacy Horst understand Ann’s challenges intimately. They founded Erin’s Hope for Friends in loving memory of their daughter Erin to help teens like her struggling with Asperger’s syndrome make meaningful and lasting social connections.
Erin, a talented young woman, faced many challenges, primarily Asperger’s syndrome. Unfortunately, Darren and Stacy lost their beloved daughter after she chose to take her own life in January 2014.
“If Erin had one really good friend that she connected to, that she could do something with for one evening a week, it would have changed her whole life,” Darren said.
Erin’s Hope for Friends, with locations in Acworth and Alpharetta, bridges the gap for socially challenged teens and young adults by providing a safe place for joyful interactions and fun activities called e’s Club.
The Acworth e’s Club, for teens ages 12 to seniors in high school, meets from 7-10 p.m. on Fridays. The Young Adult Program (high school graduates to age 24) meets from 6-9 p.m. Sundays. More than 500 teens and young adults are served through the organization.
“(This is) an amazing place that my daughter feels accepted, can be herself, passes no judgment and truly loves going to every week,” said Robin Mellie, who’s daughter is part of the high school group. “She’s been going since the day they opened; e’s Club is a place like no other – wonderful!”
E’s club is not social skills therapy, but a fun, stress-free place to hang out and develop long-term friendships.
“I wanted to come to e’s Club to find people like me,” said club member Joy. “I now feel more comfortable with all my friends. I love coming to e’s Club every Sunday because they don’t judge me for who I am.”
Deon said, “I wanted to come to e’s Club to make friends. It has changed my life because I feel less stressed and safe.”
If you’re interested in spreading the word and getting involved with this mission, attend Erin’s Hope for Friends’ upcoming Hollywood Gala fundraiser, “Lights, Camera, Auction.” The event will be 7-11 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Metropolitan Club in Alpharetta. You can also volunteer or donate fun stuff for e’s Club meetings (see Get Involved tab on website). To register for the gala or for more information, visit www.erinshopeforfriends.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 678-390-4812. Erin’s Hope for Friends in Acworth is located at 4492 Acworth Industrial Drive, Suite 100.
– By Susan Schulz, a wife, mom, writer and mentor who lives and plays along the Etowah River in Canton.