November 2009

Put a Little PEP In Your Christmas

Author: Linda S. Hopkins

Watch out! Don’t cry. Don’t pout. Why? Not only is Santa Claus coming to town, but the Target Band has just released their new Christmas CD. And if this doesn’t put some jolly in your jingle, nothing will. In addition to the band’s soulful renditions of Christmas classics such as “Silent Night” and “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” there’s a swingin’ version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and a lively performance of “Winter Wonderland.” But the real highlight is the special medley, combining “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with “Jingle Bells,” starring the members of PEP (Progams for Exceptional People).

It all started when the Target Band offered to provide a music day at the PEP center. According to band member, Brian Raehm, Target has associated with other local charities in the past and they wanted to do something special for PEP. So they offered to bring the band over to play music with the members. “We set up a guitar amp, sang and had a wildly great time,” he said.

When it came time for the band to produce their Christmas CD, Target planned to donate part of the proceeds to PEP. But then they took their mission a step further, inviting the PEP members to participate and recording their part at the PEP center.

“This is the first time we ever did it like that—where we had people who are benefiting sing on the CD. But it was just a hoot,” said Raehm. “Now we go over every Wednesday or Thursday. They are a wonderful group of people. Some of them have extraordinary musical talent. Some of them don’t—like all of us. They make percussion instruments out of oatmeal boxes and put corn in it. Everybody’s shakin’ and bakin’. It’s just a riot! They all sing and clap. You see how happy you make these people. It’s really touching. It’s more fun than anything I’ve done in music in the last 30 years.”

What is PEP?
Programs for Exceptional People (PEP) is a 501© 3 organization that is committed to providing services to adults (ages 21 and over) in southern Beaufort County, SC, whose lives are affected by lifelong intellectual and developmental disabilities. Incorporated as a nonprofit organization in December 1995, PEP is a Qualified Provider through the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN). According to administrator, Sally Ryan, the program is currently serving 50 individuals, ages 21-81.

Adhering to a strengths-based approach to service delivery, PEP provides skills training in the areas of employment, utilization of local resources, and independent living in addition to offering opportunities for community inclusion and socialization.

Rather than teaching standard reading, writing and arithmetic lessons, the curriculum is based on activities that incorporate those life skills, explained Ryan. For example, a cooking class includes reading the recipe, checking supplies, writing the shopping list and taking a community trip to the grocery store. Participants learn to select fresh produce and pay for the groceries. On the return trip, community safety skills, such as how to cross busy roads, are emphasized. Next, the group washes their hands, prepares the food, eats it and cleans up.

“We stress those skills that will make transitioning into as independent a lifestyle as possible for the person. We don’t focus on what someone can’t do. We focus on what they can do,” said Ryan. “By concentrating on activities that are meaningful, you have a happy environment where learning takes place at a much more rapid rate.”

According to Ryan, one of the greatest challenges is overcoming stereotypes. “Our members are not children,” she said, emphasizing that these are adults with talents who need to be included in mainstream society, not just on the fringes. “Everybody on our planet is an individual, and every one of us has a disability,” she said. “Some of us don’t see as well as others. Some of us don’t hear as well. Some people have cancer; some have diabetes. Our members are no different. Their disability is just more difficult for them to live with and is a bigger challenge for them. But they are individuals. If we remember that, we’ll go a long way toward having a more accepting world.”

Help wanted
What makes PEP such a unique program is the ongoing need for the same members. “Our members come to us for a lifetime. No one ever leaves. Incrementally, we’re growing every year, so our budget has to keep pace with that,” said Ryan, urging every community member to offer support. Here are four ways you can help:

According to Ryan, PEP’s budget requires that 60 percent of funding be achieved through grant writing, successful special events, corporate and civic sponsorship, and individual donations. PEP will launch its annual appeal in December. Your generosity will go a long way in serving PEP participants. Donations can be sent to 10 Oak Park Drive, Box 2, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926. For information regarding other upcoming special events and opportunities to give, call (843) 681-8413 or visit

In addition to the permanent staff, volunteer help is always needed at PEP. As the Target Band will attest, the rewards far outweigh the giving. “It’s so much fun, we should pay them!” said Raehm.

“I think everybody that comes in here on a volunteer basis will say they come for what they get here,” said Ryan.

“They derive a certain sense of energy and life, a sense of fulfillment in helping to mold and structure these lives of our members.”

Whether you are a teacher, a student, a crafter, a retiree, or a stay-at-home parent, there is a volunteer position available for you at PEP. Full-time, part-time and occasional volunteers are needed. For more information, please visit PEP at 10 Oak Park Dr., Bldg. C-1 or call (843) 681-8413.

Purchase PEP Christmas Cards.
Created by PEP members, these holiday cards are sure to bring a smile to those who receive them. Choose from six different designs. Personalized imprinting is available as an additional option. View and order cards online at

Buy or help sell Target’s Christmas CD.
Target will debut the Christmas CD, titled A Target the Band Island Christmas at Shelter Cove Harbour on Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving (November 27-28). They will perform both days from noon-4 p.m. On Saturday, PEP members will perform with the band at 2 p.m. Merchants along the harbor will be selling the CD for $10, of which $3 will go to benefit PEP. To read more about the Target Band, to find out where and how you can purchase a CD or to set up a CD display case at your place of business, visit or call (843) 816-1090.

Let Us Know what You Think ...

commenting closed for this article