Volunteers are needed to assist with drama, dance and music classes for handicapped youth, said Wendy Boyack, director of Unique Arts for Special Needs.

"We want to give handicapped youth a chance to experience and perform the arts, as well as helping them in other ways. We believe that if you build a child's self-esteem, the rest will fall into place," Boyack said.Unique Arts for Special Needs serves 160 youth with handicaps ranging from deafness and blindness to learning disabilities and physical handicaps. All activities are designed to help youth discover the normality of their disabilities.

"The youth put on shows, make their own costumes and sometimes create their own dances. They think our annual recital is the neatest thing ever. They are excited with the lights, big curtain, music, and crowds of people," Boyack said.

The group also performs at the Festival of Trees and at the Dickens Festival. Their next performance will be at their benefit dinner on Nov. 20.

Volunteers attend classes, befriend the youth and help them through the exercises. Before working with the youth, volunteers go through sensitivity training.

"We blindfold them to teach them how it feels to be blind, and we stuff cotton in their ears so they can relate to those youth with a hearing disability," Boyack said.

Both the volunteers and youth benefit from their interaction.

"Last year, a group of teenage boys participated in our class for deaf children. The volunteers found out that it's OK to be deaf, that deaf children can be `cool,' too, and the children were thrilled to have a friend who accept them for who they are," Boyack said.

Volunteers of all ages are needed to assist with classes Monday through Thursday from 9 to 10 a.m., and Friday from 3 to 4 p.m. and 4 to 5 p.m. "We especially need volunteers for the morning class," Boyack said.

Volunteers are also needed to help sell tickets for the benefit dinner in November. Prizes will be awarded for those who sell the most tickets.

For more information on becoming a volunteer with Unique Arts for Special Needs, call the United Way Volunteer Center at 374-8108. Other volunteer opportunities include:

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- United Way of Utah County is looking for a volunteer with excellent phone skills to work with the Gifts In Kind Program. Volunteer will contact agencies, maintain a list of agency needs, and inform agencies when needed donations are received. Volunteer should be available one time a week for 2 to 3 hours.

- The Red Cross needs a volunteer to make daily reassurance calls to elderly, homebound individuals one time a week for one hour. Calls are made from the Red Cross office from 9 to 10 a.m.

- Payson Read needs a volunteer to assist the director with clerical, phone, etc. Hours are flexible.

For more information on these and other volunteer opportunities, call the United Way Volunteer Center at 374-8108.

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