South Mississippi Strong: SNO brings fun, friendships to people with special needs

South Mississippi’s Special Needs Organization serves people across the Gulf Coast

South Mississippi Strong: People with special needs get love, training at SNO

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippi SNO never goes away. Not this kind, anyway, and that’s wonderful news for the hundreds of people who depend on it.

SNO stands for Special Needs Organization, and it serves special needs clients and their families all across the Coast. It was started by Executive Director Donna Brewer and co-founder Cindy McNelley primarily to meet an ongoing need: having fun.

“A lot of different things are involved,” Brewer said. “It’s kind of been evolving itself.”

Brewer said other existing organizations do a good job meeting other needs. In fact, SNO shares many of the same clients with those organizations.

“One person can’t do everything,” Brewer said. “Two people can’t do everything. So, we thought we could kind of support the community through social activities.”

For three years, that’s what they have been doing, from dances to musical performances. Brewer, who was the younger sibling to a special needs adult brother, said her special needs daughter Hannah has been her driving force.

“She enjoys those type things. She enjoys the music so much,” she said. “So, that was the inspiration behind us wanting to continue do dances and eventually have the summer camp where we focus on music, arts and theater.”

“I like singing," Hannah said. "I like music, and I am an artist.”

Brewer sees the potential for everyone.

“Letting our friends get up on those stages and perform means so much to them,” Brewer said," and we recognized how important that was the second year of our Valentine’s Dance where we had an impromptu talent show.”

Hundreds of people have benefited from the efforts and from Brewer’s tireless work.

“I mean she gets calls all the time,” McNelley said. “She gets calls every day. People asking questions, needing resources, needing services, and, I mean, it’s just a constant.”

McNeeley, who has special needs family members herself, has worked with Brewer from the beginning.

“She is such a strong force,” McNelley said. “ Everything she does, she’s such a go-getter, and we could not ask for anybody better to take the reins and go with this.”

Brewer said the ultimate goal of SNO goes beyond dances and musical performances. She wants the disabled community to have an option outside Medicaid’s Home and Community-based Services Waiver that will focus on job training, job employment and learning life skills.

There's no doubt where Brewer’s strength comes from.

“Hannah,” she said. “When I want to stop, and I just say that I’m tired and, ‘Can I stop?’ and, ‘Can I give in?’ and, ‘Can I give this up? Can I either pass it along or can I talk about quitting?’ She says, ‘No.’ ”

Copyright 2018 WLOX. All rights reserved.