BraveHeart selected for Tiger Giving Day project

On a warm day in the middle of January, an open house was held to inform the community of a new program that serves young adults with developmental disabilities. A collaborative partnership between the Social Work Program in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University and First Presbyterian Church of Auburn, BraveHeart Center for Place and Purpose (BCPP) welcomed dozens of area residents, alumni, and others to Baird Hall in the First Presbyterian Church. On display for the open house were dizzying amounts of projects the participants of BCPP were involved in, including a display about a movie shown once a month where the 12 young adults in the program served as ushers and cashiers to patrons. A map was displayed to show the many miles the group has walked as part of their twice-weekly jaunts, averaging 2­ – 3 miles each time. Artwork, photography, and science projects were also on display, and all of them created by the young adults in BCPP – and that was just a small sampling of what the group does.

According to social work faculty Dr. Angie Burque, Dr. Danilea Werner, and assistant clinical professor Nana Daronatsy, BCPP creates a place that is sensitive to the need for safety, the importance of belonging, and the benefit of consistent daily routine, and it creates a purpose for those who would otherwise be excluded from full participation in the adult community. This pilot program serves 12 young adults facing moderate to severe life challenges and their families. The faculty mentioned above are involved in the creation of BCPP and have a history of developing successful, sustainable programming for families who have an individual with moderate to severe disabilities. In a recent interview with Burque, Werner, and Daronatsy, we talked about how the program came to be, what the mission of the program is, and what some of their ongoing needs are.

In 2010, Burque created Expressions of a BraveHeart. As a professor of social work and a concerned parent of two children, one with special needs, she was personally impacted by the gap in programmatic activities for preteens, youth, and young adults with special needs – especially those with moderate to severe disabilities.

“I began Expressions of a BraveHeart in the spring of 2010 with 14 participants, 30 volunteers, and a community partnership in Opelika,” Burque said.

The original Expressions of a BraveHeart program continued to grow, and Werner and Daronatsy joined the directive team. In 2011, the program was recognized with the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association’s 2010 Innovative Program of the Year Award. They now serve 32 families and have more than 80 student volunteers.

The BraveHeart Center for Place and Purpose grew out of the success of the Expressions of a BraveHeart program. The faculty leaders and families in the original program identified an unmet need in the community for the young adults with moderate to severe disabilities.

“There is a track record of continued growth of BraveHearts, with a clear need for increased programming to meet the needs of those who have aged out of school, but who don’t yet possess the personal or interpersonal strengths needed to make use of the traditional next steps that ‘typical’ high school graduates take – whether it be advanced education or employment,” Burque said.

The team says that neither Expressions of a BraveHeart, nor BraveHeart Center for Place and Purpose, could exist without support from the community, from students as volunteers, and from those who form partnerships with the organizations.

In order to continue serving so many families in the community, Expressions of a BraveHeart and BCPP have been selected for Tiger Giving Day so they may receive the items needed to keep the programs going.

“On February 21, people will be able to go to the Tiger Giving Day website and choose from a variety of programs selected by Auburn University. Our goal is to raise $7,000 to go towards purchasing materials such as musical instruments, art supplies, laptops, and other items to enrich the lives of the participants in our programs,” Werner said.

“Tiger Giving Day is a great way to help raise some much-needed funds for the BraveHeart programs,” College of Liberal Arts Dean Joseph Aistrup said. “I hope our community and alumni will show up on Tiger Giving Day and contribute to the resources necessary to empower our participants through the fine arts, health and wellness, and academic activities.”

In addition to Tiger Giving Day (Feb. 21, link here) BCPP is always looking for community partners and support. To become a community inclusion sponsor, or to request BCPP help with a volunteer opportunity, please contact Angie Burque.  


Written by Vicky Santos, director of external affairs in the College of Liberal Arts, Auburn University. 

Last Updated: February 08, 2017