“Baby It’s Cold Outside”

The 10th Annual Heart 2 Heart Hugs Campaign for Delaware’s Homeless Children Need Coats, Hats, Sleeping Bags, Gloves and other warm new or hand made items.

It’s been a decade since the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC) has orchestrated the Heart 2 Heart Hugs campaign which provides warm winter clothes to school districts for homeless children in Delaware. “The thought behind it is to provide a warm comfy hug to Delaware’s homeless and children in foster care. We do this through warm winter clothes,” said Wendy Strauss the Executive Director of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens.

This campaign originally started as Project Hug and Sleeping Bag Campaign. “Sleeping bags gave children something they could carry from place to place that is theirs; a comfort item providing a sense of security,” said Strauss. The GACEC is looking for NEW hats, coats, scarves, gloves, buntings, snow suits, footie pajamas, blankets, comforters, sleeping bags, snow pants and hoodies for homeless children and foster care children from birth through 18 years of age.

This years distribution is on Valentines day with distribution to schools and foster care programs across Delaware. Some claim that this is too late for such a campaign. Wendy Strauss responded, “ Some of the items do go to students this winter. Mostly the schools need their inventory restocked so they have it when the need arises at the beginning and throughout the school year. Right now, retail stores are reducing their winter wear so it is a good time to buy and donate to the campaign.”

Donations will be accepted until February 12, 2019 at the 30 drop-off locations throughout the state. A list of donations sites can be found at https://gacec.delaware.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/35/2018/12/Heart-2-Heart-Hugs-2018-3.pdf For additional information please contact Kathie Cherry by calling 302-739-4553 or email her at Kathie.cherry@gacec.k12.de.us and if you would like to donate items for Delaware’s homeless children.

Warm Clothing Drive Once Again Collecting Hugs and Connecting Hearts for Delaware’s Children

The Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC) and its community partners, are pleased to report that the Heart 2 Heart Hugs campaign has now begun. Heart 2 Heart Hugs is focused on providing warmth, comfort, hugs and smiles for kids and young adults in Delaware who are homeless or in foster care. Donations of “hugs” (to include new or handmade coats, blankets, scarves, gloves, fleece items, monetary donations and more) will continue until February 2019 for this year’s effort.

The GACEC has received tremendous support not only from individuals within the community, but from area businesses, state agencies and other organizations as well. Most recently the Twisted Stitchers crocheting group that meets at Dover’s Modern Maturity Center donated many large bags of beautiful handmade items. In October the program was blessed with another large donation of handmade items from the Care Wear project that is part of Volunteer Delaware.

Statistics from the Delaware Department of Education (DOE) show that in the 2017-18 school year, there were 21,168 students receiving special education services. Roughly one third of those students are homeless or in foster care. Homelessness impacts children and the State of Delaware in many ways. Health issues, food security and educational proficiency are areas that the report uses to show how great the needs are for children who are homeless. Wendy Strauss, executive director of the GACEC stated that “…this project connects hearts and collects hugs for our children in foster care and for our children who are homeless.

Programs like this let our children know that we are thinking about them and we care for them.” Dover Mayor, Robin R. Christiansen commented during his remarks at the Kickoff Event, held November 29th at Central Middle School, “Every one of us can make a difference in the lives of someone who is not as fortunate as we are, and we should strive to do that daily.” Secretary Josette Manning of the Division of Services for Children Youth and their Families (DSCYF) spoke about the blessing that this program is to those experiencing placement in foster care or homelessness. “Often the transition to foster care is a move that is quick and traumatic for the children, having something of their very own at a new place can be such a comfort.” Wendy Strauss concluded the kickoff by reminding everyone to connect hearts and collect hugs for our children who are homeless or in foster care across the State. Items will be collected through February 11, 2019, with the distribution event scheduled to take place on February 14, 2019 at George Massey Station in Dover. The distribution reception will allow foster care representatives and school homeless liaisons from around the State the opportunity to select needed items for their clients.

Drop-off points are located throughout the state and may be found on the homepage of the GACEC at http://gacec.delaware.gov. Contact the GACEC at (302) 739-4553 or Sybil Baker, GACEC Administrative Coordinator Sybil.brown@gacec.k12.de.us for additional information.

It’s A Wrap!

George Tilson, who wrote the original musical receives a plaque of appreciation from his cast and crew.


Who would have thought that a march of advocates from Philadelphia to DC would end up choreographed into a theatrical production? In 2003, 200 people with disabilities and their advocates marched from Philadelphia to Wilmington, through central Delaware, west to Baltimore and finally to the U.S. Capitol – to demand their rights as citizens, to be full members of their communities, and to end the practice of shutting people away in facilities. During the 2-week journey, they blocked traffic for 144 miles and camped along the way.

Boundless took the audience on that trek this weekend by combining the recollected stories of Delawareans with disabilities and the sometimes-difficult history of our Nation’s struggle to ensure dignity and justice for all. Theater allows us to ponder and celebrate the intricacies of our shared humanity through campfire stories of hardship, resilience and celebration. The cast of thirty was composed of people from the Delaware disability community and supporters ages 6 to 70.

Everyone should know that people with disabilities can and should be supported by all of us and be part of the intricate fabric of our communities. Many people without disabilities are discovering that every one of us faces challenges in life – and that we each have moments of brilliance. One of the lines in the show reads, “If you’re fortunate to live a long life, you WILL experience disability…up close and personal!” We’re all in the same boat – and we need each other. We are interdependent! Nearly 800 attended the three performances at Dover High School this past weekend. Congratulations to the cast and crew of this wonderful musical adventure!

Calling All Performers!

The Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, in conjunction with others from the disability community is excited to announce the development of an original musical. The musical will be produced in Kent County in 2018. The musical will provide a “walk through disability history in Delaware.” Currently, we are seeking talented actors, singers, dancers, puppeteers and musicians to be a part of the show. In addition, we are also searching for volunteers in the areas of lighting, set design, props and marketing for the show.

Informational meetings will be held on Wednesday, December 6 and January 10 at Central Middle school in Dover from 5:30-8:00pm. The address for Central Middle School is 211 Delaware Avenue, Dover. If you are interested you will only need to attend ONE of these meetings. Please note: this is not an audition, however, if you have a performance resume or headshots you would like to leave with us please bring them. Auditions will be held in Early 2018. Those interested but unable to attend the information meeting may call the GACEC office and speak to Wendy Strauss 302-739-4553.

Heart2Heart Hugs Warm Clothing Drive

Dover- Principal Shan Green of Central Middle School proudly presented opening remarks at the kickoff of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC) Heart 2 Heart Hugs warm clothing drive. The annual drive, in its 9th year, collects new warm items for the children in Delaware who are homeless, under housed, or in foster care. This years campaign is an initiative to collect a broader range of warm items. New items such as sleeping bags, coats, hats, sweatshirts and gloves that will bring warmth to a child in need.

“As the weather gets colder and the holiday’s approach, it is important we remember to help Delawareans most in need.” Said Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long. “I’m proud to support he Heart 2 Heart Hugs campaign and its efforts to provide needed items to thousands of homeless and foster care children across the state.”

“Heart 2 Heart Hugs is a statewide drive that begins in November- with various organizations and companies throughout the state offering their time and resources to collect and deliver items to Delaware’s Nearly 5,000 children who are homeless, in foster care or under housed. Representative Harvey Kenton shared, “It was an honor and privilege to attend the Heart 2 Heart Hugs kickoff event today. Everyone deserves to have warm clothing and a hug. I encourage everyone to get involved…”

“Additionally, out of the nearly 5,000 children in Delaware who are homeless or in foster care, approximately one-third are children with disabilities,” explained Wendy Strauss, Director of GACEC which serves as the state advisory panel for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its amendments. “We connect hearts and collect hugs for children who are underprivileged.”

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen, who has been involved with the drive for many years, shared “Heart 2 Heart Hugs is a program that for 9 years has warmed not only the children in need but also the hearts of those who embrace this cause. It helps each of us, young and old, to live the Golden Rule. I heartily encourage everyone to become a part of something bigger… by helping others.”

The warm clothing drive will collect new items through February 10, 2018. Drop off points are located throughout the state and can be found on the GACEC website at www.gacec.delaware.gov. Interested parties may also contact GACEC offices (302) 739-4553 for additional information a bout drop offs or about becoming a partner.