FAIRFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) – The Fairfield Prep student center is filled with cheers, laughter, and encouragement during a rowdy game.
“We came up with Bunco which is a very simple dice game that causes people to rotate between tables so you meet all kinds of new people,” says Kelly Maffei, who helped organize this special program.
And, this isn’t any ordinary night.
The players are young adults with disabilities, flanked by students from Fairfield Prep.
“It was initially eight team members from Woofgang and eight Fairfield Prep players and now it’s over 20 on both sides,” says Maffei.
Team Woofgang & Co. is a non-profit organization that empowers young adults with disabilities through vocational training.
They cook dog treats in this kitchen which they then sell at a downtown store, working the register, and talking with customers.
“Remember the phrase, strength in numbers,” says Nicole Emmanuel who works in the bakery and loves Bunco night.
She reads from a poignant letter she wrote to the Fairfield Prep students at Christmastime.
“I see, each week, a group of mature boys and men who make life fun for us,” says Emmanuel.
“This is authentic genuine human friendships, laughter, connections, all on a weekly basis,” says Dr. Michelle Smith, a theology and ethics teacher, also the faculty sponsor of Fairfield Prep Club Woofgang.
Recently, the group went to a basketball game to support a player who also participates in Bunco.
“At the end, I couldn’t believe what I saw, I saw him being hugged by one team member and fist bumping someone else,” says Maffei, co-founder of Woofgang & Co. and mom of Caroline.
She says this simple game night is changing lives.
“They’re normalized in this environment and I think real friendships have been born out of it,” she says.
“I make the same sarcastic jabs with them that I make with everyone else and everybody loves it,” says student leader, Jack Devine, noting that this experience has debunked stereotypes.
He and another student leader, Robbie Upton hope this night of extreme fun inspires other schools and communities to follow suit.
“I think it’s very special. It’s one night a week and yet the impact it leaves is a lot,” says Upton.
Team Woofgang, now in it’s 6th year, continues to rely on donations, grants and fundraisers to meet the needs of this population.
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