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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Champion Athletes program helps disabled

Friday, January 25, 2013

Details about Champion Athletes of the Ozarks, a program offering encouragement to people with disabilities through sports, were provided for the Monett Kiwanis Club at last week's meeting.

Laura Saunders, fundraising coordinator for Champion Athletes of the Ozarks, presented a PowerPoints talk on the organization. Founded in March 2002, the program benefits children and adults with disabilities in the Ozarks. Activities center around athletics to teach them how to adapt to change, cope with stress and work with different authority figures.

Organized activities include basketball, gymnastics, swimming, track and field, bowling, golf, softball and bocce. Additional classes focus on reading, math and life skills.

Champion Athletes of the Ozarks operates on donations and grants, receiving no federal funds. Athletes participate at no charge.

Saunders said participants engage in interpersonal relationships and through the program experience winning, independence and how to make decisions. Additional skills, such as how to manage money, do laundry, and handle basic reading and cooking tasks, are shared.

People with disabilities have some unique challenges, Saunders said. For example, the sound of a storm siren may prompt only distress from someone with autism. Champion Athletes of the Ozarks provides instruction on how to respond appropriately in an emergency.

"The overall goal is to improve the lives of people," Saunders said.

A number of leading figures in sports in Springfield contribute their talents and presence to Champion Athletics programs. Saunders said speakers have included Scott Bailes, announcer for Springfield Cardinals on TV; Nyla Milleson, basketball coach for the Lady Bears at Missouri State University; Art Haines, marketing specialist for MSU; and Tom Mast, owner of Big O Sports magazine in Springfield.

An athletic council among athletes is formed to help in the decision making process. The council encourages social skills, such as making contact as part of teamwork and turning off cell phones while interacting with others.

People from age 4 to 65 participate in Champion Athletes programs. There are currently 550 engaged in planned activities in Lawrence, Barry, Greene and Taney counties. Saunders would like to grow a program in Monett.

For more information about Champion Athletes of the Ozarks, call Saunders at 417-890-1599. Saunders works out of the program's office in Springfield.

Saunders was introduced by Ann Saunders, program chairman. Kiwanis President Gordon Brown presided at the meeting.

Brown presented the club with a plaque from the Monett Area YMCA in recognition of the club's financial support for the Y's String Kids program.

A second plaque came from the Children's Miracle Network in thanks for support received from the club. The Children's Miracle Network helps to fund the Cardiac Kids health screening for fifth graders, offered through Cox Monett Hospital. Funding also supports the CARE Mobile, which brings a mobile vehicle with services to Cox Monett Hospital every Tuesday.

The Monett Kiwanis Club meets at noon on Tuesdays for a meal and a program, usually at Happy House restaurant.

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