Baskets help special education students cope with COVID-19 pandemic

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Coping with COVID-19 isn’t easy for any of us, and it can be particularly difficult for young people with intellectual and developmental difficulties.

That’s why a young Jacksonville woman came up with an idea to help, and on Thursday, we caught her “project” in action at the North Florida School of Special Education.

There were big smiles and squeals of delight as basket after basket of COVID relief were delivered to elementary students at the school in Arlington.

“It makes me feel so glad that they were so happy to enjoy it and learn more about COVID and kinda how to cope more with COVID,” said Tori Vossman, who created the baskets.

Vossman, a Missouri State University student from Jacksonville, is in a masters program to become a child life specialist.

When the pandemic hit, she knew she had to do something.

“This has always been a special place in my heart for kids with special needs, and so when I heard about this project I knew I wanted to do something to help them,” she said.

Vossman got to work -- creating 50 baskets herself. Inside, a coloring book and a bear with a mask to practice putting on and taking off, a pamphlet for parents, soap and a small magic hand towel.

“It looks kind of like a sponge right now, and you put it in the water and it just grows into a towel,” she explained. “I thought it would be a fun little experience for them.”

Katie Vossman is her sister. Both are passionate about children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She helped connect Tori Vossman with the school for the basket giveaway.

“Our cousin actually passed away with Down Syndrome,” Katie Vossman said. “Ever since then our whole family has just taken, you know, an approach to just love on those kids just like they’re ours..”

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