By Elizabeth Kumar, ECNV Peer Mentor / Community Events Coordinator
I started Connect4 Social Hour because I saw a real need for a group like this for young adults in our community. I myself have a disability, and when I moved to Virginia from Maryland I was in search for a social group that would help me meet new people in the area. I was not looking for a typical support group, although that is important too. Most of my searches for groups came up with support groups run by various hospitals in the area. But I was looking for a group that did everyday things that other professionals do after a hard week of work. I was also looking for a group that would connect me to people in the disability community that I could learn from. I believe that having a group like this helps people with their mental and even physical well-being. It also gives people a feeling of belonging in everyday life, and a chance to build lasting friendships.
Connect4 was started two years ago and we have done many activities together that include happy hours, Friendsgiving potlucks, and film festivals. We have gone to happy hours at several restaurants in the Arlington area including Fireworks, Cheesecake Factory, Witlow’s on Wilson, and Courthaus Social.
We have had two Friendsgiving’s during the holiday seasons where our members brought several traditional and some nontraditional food
items to share. It was incredibly fun sitting together and enjoying the holiday vibe. We also went to the 5th annual ReelAbilities film festival in 2016, which was held at Angelika Film Center in the Mosaic District. The festival represented the lives and stories of people who are differently –abled. Our group saw The Finishers, which is a story about a father and his seventeen year old son with congenital palsy who finally build a bond with one another by training for a triathlon.
Paint and Sip night at ECNV
Most recently, we had our first ever paint and sip night. This event was very successful. We had canvases and art supplies, as well as pizza and refreshments. We made paint night as inclusive as possible for different skill levels. This included a step by step instructional video, written instructions, as well as a picture of the final product on a card. There was no pressure to make the painting exactly like the model and we encouraged everyone to be creative. Some of our participants were new to Connect4, some of whom were autistic and had never went to a paint night. We were happy to see that they enjoyed painting and socializing with others. We plan to have many more paint nights and to expand our list of activities!
Connect4 Social Hour has allowed young adults in the Northern Virginia area to come together and not be identified by their disability. We believe our disability is only part of who we are. By having a group like Connect4 we can get to know each other beyond this label.