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HAZELWOOD, Mo. – One woman has a special place in her heart for special needs children and their parents. Shonda Gann heads up a program that gives the whole family a break.

Gann brought the nationwide program Nathaniel’s Hope Buddy Break to Hazelwood earlier this year. It’s a free parents day out. Her longtime friend Jami Dial nominated her for the Pay-It-Forward award because Shonda does it all on her own with her own money and donations.

Jami surprised Shonda with our Pay-It-Forward award a $500 gift card from First Bank. She nominated Shonda for the award because she shows every child love.

“She brings them to this program so that they can have a wonderful experience and meet new friends and just feel like normal kids,” said Jami Dial.

Anthony Sanders is one of the Buddy Kids. He said, “I have lots of fun when I go to ‘buddy-break’ because like I get to make new friends, play with my friends, and even hang out.”

Shonda`s church in Hazelwood provides the space for buddy break. One Saturday a month parents can drop off their special needs child and their siblings for three hours of fun and getting loved on. It also provides a break for parents.

Shonda fought back tears as she talked about the children in the buddy break program, “I’ve worked with kids all my life. These kids have actually walked into my heart and I love every one of them. I love their parents and they’re just the greatest bunch of kids.”

Shonda already has plans on how to spend the $500. She told the group of Buddy-Break kids, “We’re going to have a good Christmas party.”

This Pay-It-Forward report is brought to you by First Bank. Click here to nominate a deserving person for the award.