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Carroll teen starts new social group to meet special needs

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Disability Express is steadily becoming everything Brian Nobles hoped it could be. The 18-year-old wanted a group that offered a variety of social activities for those with disabilities: Both he and his twin brother, Bob, have autism.

By creating Disability Express, he finally found the social group he wanted.

"Unexpectedly, I found nothing," Nobles said, of his search earlier in the year for a group to join.

While there are groups for people with disabilities, many had special interests, such as athletics, or were for certain ages, such as younger than 21 or over-21.

He was encouraged by his mother, Sharon, and Dan Pettlingill, who works with Brian Nobles about 20 hours a week, to start his own social group.

Disability Express Group began in June, when Nobles started putting the idea out to fellow students at Kennedy-Krieger Institute in Baltimore, where he and his brother are students.

In August, the group met for the first time and outlined activities they wanted to do. They also talked about ideas for fundraisers to support those activities.

"Brian pioneered the group," Pettlingill said. "There was nothing like this ... there really was a void there, and he's trying to close that void."

There are currently seven members in the group, coming from all over Carroll County as well as Towson and Edgewater.

They try to meet once a month and get together for an activity once a month.

They have enjoyed a number of excursions, including a haunted hayride and a painted pottery session, and have had lunch at the mall.

A holiday shopping trip at Hunt Valley Mall is planned for December as is a bowling party with a Secret Santa exchange.

The group has hosted a car wash to raise funds and created a wreath for Westminster's Festival of Wreaths.

On Nov. 16, the group hosted a Kick Out Bullying event at United Hap Ki Do in Eldersburg with proceeds raised from the event donated to East Middle School in Westminster.

"The kids decided to give donations to an anti-bully cause," said Sharon Nobles, who contacted the county school system for ideas and was referred to East Middle School.

"They partnered with us for the event," she said, of the school's student government association. "It will be a joint effort to decide how the funds will be used to educate and promote anti-bullying."

She added that there will probably a joint event sometime in the spring.

That event will be a priority on the Disability Express calendar, which is quickly filling up with activities the group has voted for during its meetings.

They recently discovered that they have been invited to be part of Ray Rice's Ray of Hope Campaign's pro kindness, anti-bullying rally Friday, Nov. 22, in Towson.

Brian Nobles hopes the group, which is open to anyone ages 13 to 21 with disabilities, will continue to grow in membership, too.

"The whole goal is just meeting people," Nobles said. "Teens with disabilities can be out in the community. Just give them the right hand."

A victim of bullying when he was in middle school, Tim Harvey, 19, has enjoyed being in the group, according to his mom, Becky.

"He hasn't forgotten," she said, of the bullying.

"He has a really big heart. He's very open and kind-hearted. He knows what it feels like," she said. "It is hard to find groups of kids to hang with if they don't have some kind of disability. This is good for him ... for kids close to the same age to get together to do this."

Harvey was all smiles as he watched his peers demonstrate their skills at United Hap Ki Do last week.

"This is one of the greatest groups we ever started," Harvey said. "To bring everybody that has a disability together ... is one of the best things to do."

"I think it is a good opportunity," agreed Bob Nobles. "Brian made an excellent choice to create it."

For information about the Disability Express Group, go to http://thedisabilityexpress.wix.com/thedisabilityexpress.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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