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Labor of love: Family improves lives of people with special challenges

NNPA-LOBOR-OF-LOVE-minesfamLabor of love: Family improves lives of people with special challenges

United by love and wearing their JP JumPers Foundation Santa hats, the Mines family gets into the holiday spirit at their Chesterfield County home. The family, from left, mother, Pam Mines; 11-year-old son, J.P.; adopted god niece, Sydnee, 13; daughter, Michelle, 13; and father, Perry Mines.                                        (Photo: Sandra Sellars )

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the Richmond Free Press

( – Helping those in the special needs community is a way of life for the Mines family of Chesterfield County, Va.

Through advocacy efforts and by organizing programs designed to showcase the talents of those in the special needs community, the Mines family seeks to improve the quality of life for people with mental and physical disabilities and other special challenges. It’s a labor of love for the tight-knit family of five that has two children with special needs.

The mother, Pam, is founder and executive director of the nonprofit JP JumPers Foundation that she named after her 11-year-old son, J.P. who is autistic and has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The Chesterfield-based organization seeks to “positively impact families affected by autism, special needs and unique circumstances,” according to its website.

Mrs. Mines was honored for her advocacy for the disabled and for her work to get a bill passed by the General Assembly two years ago known as “J.P.’s Law,” after her son, that would allow DMV Virginia to add a code to driver’s licenses and other IDs to help law enforcement officers be aware of an individual’s diagnosis.

She and her husband, Perry, also care for their adopted 13-year-old god niece, Sydnee, who has neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder of the nervous system, as well as ADHD and is blind in her left eye. They adopted the honor roll student in 2010, after her mother died from complications related to neurofibromatosis. The Mines’ 13-year-old daughter, Michelle, is typically developed with no special needs.

Mr. Mines fuels his desire to help others by mentoring at-risk youths through his company, Luv’em Like Mines Youth Services in Chesterfield County. The Third Annual Christmas Special Needs Worship Service was held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015 at a local high school. There, in an array of performances that evoked tears and cheers from audience members, children and adults with special needs ranging from autism and cerebral palsy to Down’s Syndrome and intellectual disabilities sang, danced, displayed art, played the piano and guitar and even preached a Word from the Lord.

Mrs. Mines said she and her family pour their hearts and souls into the effort “because we want to celebrate an often overlooked community. We don’t think it’s a punishment, an accident or a curse to be affected or have a loved one affected by special needs. We consider it a true appointment by God and we take it seriously. The bottom line is I’m so glad God chose me to be inspired by a child with autism.”

She said the faith-based service is designed to be welcoming to all performers and includes a wide array of acts for the audience to enjoy.

“It’s all inclusive,” Mrs. Mines said. “You can mess up, you can miss the words or you don’t have to know the words at all. The audience will know what you’re doing and everybody gets a standing ovation.

“You get to see people display their different abilities,” she added, “and it also helps encourage other parents to see that if they have kids with disabilities, that doesn’t mean they’re limited in their ability to perform their talents.”

Jordan Ohree, an 18-year-old autistic youth who graduated last year from Varina High School, will serve as master of ceremonies at the service. He also earned intern of the week honors last week through Project Search at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Henrico County.

Mr. Mines called the showcase event “an awesome thing that allows people with special needs to perform and feel good at the same time.”

“It’s important to them for the community to show their support and to let the people that care for them to know that they can be a part of something special like this,” he added.

J.P. brought down the house last year when he concluded the show by performing “Is This the End” by New Edition. He [sang] “Got to Be There” by Michael Jackson on Sunday.

Sydnee [sang] “Glory” by John Legend and Common from the movie “Selma.”

“I like performing,” she said. “It’s nice to do it because I’m looking at family. If I mess up, it’s going to be OK because kids won’t make fun of me.”

Michelle lent her support at last year’s show by praise dancing to several songs. “It adds another spice to the special needs show,” she said. “It’s my way of giving back to the community. I may not be affected (with special needs),” she added, “but I am affected with Sydnee and J.P., who sometimes need special attention. There are a lot of responsibilities in things like making sure J.P. gets his dinner and lunch and doesn’t get off track.”

Mrs. Mines and longtime mental health advocate Monica Lucas of Richmond partnered to organize the first special needs worship service in 2013 at Second Baptist Church.

Ms. Lucas called the talent show “a celebration of God’s love for us all and a moment to show appreciation for the special people in our lives.”

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