Friday, January 27, 2012

BA Challengers: loved and needed

When a developmentally disabled child ages out of high school, what is a parent to do? Where can the child be with their peers, stay out of trouble and be actively involved in life? My 21-year-old daughter Meredith is developmentally disabled and luckily her dad and stepmom found her the Home of Hope in Vinita. She seems to love it there; she works in a sheltered workshop, lives with peers and enjoys a therapeutic riding program. In the photo, she’s wearing the Cleopatra costume she picked out herself and her Special Olympics t-shirt. (She’s always had my sense of style.) In Broken Arrow, the place for kids and adults like Meredith to be is The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club Challengers program. Challengers was started about 25 years ago and for the last seven years it’s been headed by athletic director Shelley Cramer Persinger. Club director Janis Fraley said that Shelley is “amazing” because she’s built relationships with the Challenger Kids and built trust with their parents. Apparently Shelley dreams it up and makes it happen. Last November, Shelley created the “Red Carpet Dance.” Challengers dressed up and walked their dates down the red carpet, had their pictures taken by a professional photographer and danced in a gym. Except for football, Challengers play the same sports as other club kids: baseball, basketball, swimming, karate. Janis says that the Challengers program gives the kids a sense that they belong and that they are needed. Aren’t those things we all need? My answer is yes!


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