How Did New Friends Get Started?
Originating in Manitowoc, WI, the teen-led New Friends ministry was born when a group of teens answered a simple request from a concerned mom. That concerned mom, Jackie Mayer, had a beautiful young son named Dillon who was living with Fragile X Syndrome and autism. As Dillon grew older, Jackie became increasingly concerned about him becoming isolated and it broke her heart to see that he was really lacking in friendships. She approached a group of teens from Manitowoc Lutheran High School and asked them a very simple question - "Will you be my son's friends?" They enthusiastically answered the request and the teen-led New Friends ministry was born. Jackie's simple desire to find friendship for her son and the willingness of the teens have joined together to create a friendship group that now serves over 50 families in their community. As they meet monthly, New Friends has become a place where individuals with special needs can come to interact with caring peers in an atmosphere of 100% love and acceptance.
After Jackie witnessed the success of the friendship program in Manitowoc, she felt encouraged to spread the hope of New Friends to other high schools across the nation. In the Fall of 2013, Jackie spoke to the entire student body of St. Croix Lutheran in West St. Paul and encouraged them to implement a New Friends program. The teens of St. Croix responded enthusiastically and the St. Croix New Friends program kicked off in October of 2013.
Jackie and her son, Dillon
Jackie and her family