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A 10-year-old American Fork boy with mental and physical disabilities, as well as several other children with disabilities are in need of kind, patient volunteers to be their friends.

Easter Seals Family Friends Program is seeking volunteers 55 years of age or older that are available to volunteer for three to four hours per week.Volunteers are not baby sitters. They are individuals who act as a friend to a disabled child and who also help siblings who may be struggling with their brother or sister's disability.

Volunteers can choose the child they will work with from among three to four families who need a family friend. Volunteers need to commit to being a family friend for at least nine months.

Family friends visit a family's home to play games, read stories, listen to music and talk with the children. They also can help with homework and school activities or lend a supportive shoulder and listening ear to an overworked parent.

Everyone benefits from the Family Friends Program: the children, their families and the volunteers. Children thrive on the attention given by older adults, parents gain new supportive friends who help ease the strain of caring for a child with a disability, and volunteers find their love returned a hundredfold.

Stefanie Sparks, Family Friends coordinator, said the program is not scary for volunteers. Individuals who volunteer will feel comfortable because they will receive a lot of guidance.

Volunteers will receive training before they work with the disabled child and additional volunteer training will be offered on an ongoing basis. In addition, for the first three months, the child's parents will always be on the premises with the volunteer.

The program is designed to help children younger than 12 years old who are physically disabled, mentally disabled or chronically ill. Most of the children are able to attend school.

Just knowing that someone else in the community cares really helps families get through the rough times, Sparks said.

Other volunteer opportunities available in Utah County include:

- Help move the Gathering Place. Volunteers are needed Friday, June 28, during the afternoon and evening and all day Saturday, June 29, to help move the Gathering Place from Orem Boulevard to 1200 South in Orem. The Gathering Place helps with substance-abuse treatment. It has outreach and group programs.

- Volunteer for Children's Celebration of the Arts. Provo Parks and Recreation is looking for hundreds of volunteers to assist children with various arts and crafts Saturday, July 20, at Pioneer Park. Shifts are available from 9 a.m. to noon, noon to 3 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Each volunteer will be assigned to help children with a specific art or craft. No experience necessary.

- Help can food for homeless and low-income families and individuals. Volunteers are needed to can chili Thursday, June 27, and Friday, June 28, from 1 to 4 p.m., 4 to 8 p.m. or 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Volunteers are also needed Monday, July 1, from 8 to 9:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. to noon. Individuals and groups of up to 18 are needed. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old. The chili will be donated to agencies that serve individuals and families.

For more information about these and other volunteer opportunities throughout Utah County, contact the United Way Volunteer Center at 374-8108 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.