‘CW Click’ group builds community, sense of belonging

Program for kids with disabilities and challenges started in Fergus about 10 months ago

By Lorie Black

FERGUS – Aubrey beams and calls out to Rosie when she spies her friend coming through the doorway of the hall at St. James Anglican Church. Rosie runs towards Aubrey with her arms wide open. 

Similar expressions of excitement can be heard as members of CW Click, a recently formed club for youth aged 11 to 18 with various “exceptionalities,”   gather.

“For a long while, I imagined creating a drop-in group/program with my daughter, Hanna, and her friends in mind,” said founder Melanie Patterson.

“A program for kids with disabilities and challenges, run by the same trusted, familiar people who are with the kids during the school day.”

Unable to find anything quite like that in the community, Patterson, who works as an office administrator at St. James, pitched the idea to the church council, which “welcomed starting this group in the church hall, and have supported the group right from the start.” 

With its “fenced-in garden by the river and an elevator,” she knew it was the perfect spot. 

Some educational assistants (EAs) in Centre Wellington “had the time to invest and were keen to be involved,” Patterson said. 

CW Click – From left: Hannah, April Tindall, Karissa Lindsay, and Harley during a Thursday night gathering. Photo by Lorie Black


April Tindall, an EA with the Upper Grand District School Board, took the lead. 

“There are several moving parts to this program,” Patterson said. 

“April has been at the forefront, scheduling, communicating with families, endlessly preparing for the upcoming sessions, and brainstorming with me to come up with future plans for the program.”

She continued, “I know I can speak on behalf of the Click staff and parents to say that the program would not run without her.  April and her staff are all invaluable and make Click the fabulous program it has become. An absolutely fantastic group of people [with] hearts of gold.”

With staff and the space arranged, “CW Click was a reality.” 

The club held its first gathering in May of 2023. 

Since September, they have been meeting every Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30pm, and the club has continued to grow in size. 

It offers a weekly program designed for youths with special needs, with exciting activities in a safe indoor and outdoor space. 

Tindall said she believes the group is “building community and a sense of belonging.”

Guest artists such as Brayden Benham, a musician from Elora, volunteer their time and talent hosting workshops. 

Benham also came up with the name for the club.  It’s an ironic play on the word clique “because the club is the opposite of that,” he said, “kind of like how it takes many different shapes to bring together a puzzle.” 

One of the highlights for him was playing music for one non-verbal child, who “actually started to … form words and carry a melody.” 

Butterfly Garden – Josiah enjoys the outddors at St James Anglican Church in Fergus. Submitted photo


Another guest volunteer, Dillon Paczay, introduced the group to lesser-known musical instruments like the didgeridoo. 

The group has also arranged visits from Centre Wellington Fire and Rescue, the OPP and various animal friends, and has planned a library outing and camping day. 

One of the highlights in its first year was participating in the Fergus Santa Claus Parade, during which members proudly displayed their CW Click banner. 

“The float and parade were a blast,” Patterson said. “We hope to do that again this year.”

The St. James’ Outreach Committee and Food Ministry, led by Lynne Bailey, provide snacks, refreshments and group meals, like the recent Valentine dinner for participants and their families. 

Bailey and her team of volunteers decorated the hall and included heart-themed centre pieces, Valentine’s Day cards and treats for each member.

Club officials say they are grateful for monetary support received from The Optimist Club of Centre Wellington. 

St. James plans to help fund some of the club’s activities, including extended March Break sessions and summer break programming.

Being a newer club in the community, Tindall noted officials “really want to reach families that need what we can offer.”

They’re also looking for “people that wish to volunteer time or resources to support our group through donations of art supplies and funds to help support families who may struggle with the registration fee.” 

Ideas and special presentations of music, crafts and education are also welcome. 

“We’re always looking for new ideas to promote this awesome program experience for these awesome kids,” Patterson added.

With glowing feedback from CW Click members, teachers and families, the club is growing. 

Feathered friends – Rosie was happy to spend some time with a duckling during its visit to CW Click.


Patterson added “there’s a great age range currently enrolled and (we) are considering a second group of younger ages.”

One of the older participants, Aubrey, is a leader in training. 

Tindall said “she helps with handing out snacks and supporting some of the members and does really well with this responsibility. She’s an important part of our group.” 

Harley, too, has taken on a leadership role with some of the younger members. 

She wants any kids thinking of joining to “not be nervous, because it’s a great program. It’s really fun. 

“You get to meet people. I’ve got lots of new friends here, like Jack and Rosie, who is kind and gives me lots of hugs.”

Patterson told the Advertiser her daughter Hanna “really enjoys the weekly sessions. 

“It’s such a boost to her self-esteem and social skills, and the special themes and guests are excitedly anticipated every week.” 

She added, “We feel so lucky that she has somewhere she is comfortable and feels she belongs.” 

And that was Patterson’s goal from the start – for Hanna and for all of the youth who attend.

Tindall noted “The group friendships just keep getting stronger,” and the staff and volunteers “honour the participants’ choices.” 

Sometimes they just want to enjoy being there, and not engage deeply with others. 

“We encourage the participants to move around and try different activities with different people,” said Tindale .

She expressed gratitude for the opportunity that comes with being involved with CW Click. 

“The joy that our participants and their families show us is amazing. We are part of something far bigger than ourselves,” she said.

For more information email cwclickgroup@gmail.com.

Lorie Black