CHICAGO (CBS) — Sometimes we take the friendships for granted.
But for kids with disabilities, it’s even easier to be left out.READ MORE: Miss And Mrs. America Nation Pageant Highlights Diverse Cultures; CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot Honored As Multicultural Woman of the Year
Now, a new program at one north suburban middle school is changing that, one friend at a time.
CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez has the story of the Nora Project.
A group of 4th graders greet their friend Fin with smiles and high fives.
He and Conor are part of a project that connects children with mental and physical disabilities with buddies.
In this case at Sunset Ridge Middle School in Northfield.
Each encounter, like this bowling outing with Conor is a lesson in empathy.
It all started with a simple request from Amanda Martinsen’s cousin after she got news that her tiny baby Nora had suffered brain damage during surgery.
“As she was crying to me and pouring your heart out, one of the things she said was that she was really scared that Nora was going to grow up not having friends.” said Martinsen. ”READ MORE: Chicago Attorney Cannon Lambert Sr. Sworn In As New President Of Cook County Bar Association
The Nora Project connects the children. The children do the rest.
“He’s just like us,” said student Samantha Youngerman. “He loves learning and he can pick things up so quickly.”
Focusing on their similarities, not their differences. Even making documentaries about their new friends. And interviewing their parents.
The lessons on this playground come easy: acceptance, kindness and empathy. Through fun and friendship.
“When he was leaving he actually started to cry because he did not want to leave,” said student buddy Alex Knight. “That’s a good sign.”
As the yearbooks are signed and the school year comes to a close, these kids are going home with new friends and new attitudes.
The goal now is to put the Nora Project in as many schools as possible.
The Nora Project plans to reach more than 30 schools next year.MORE NEWS: Illinois Creates New Commission To Fight Backlog Of Unprocessed DNA Evidence
Visit the Nora Project website for more information and how to get your school involved.