Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wheelchair Club in North Carolina offers recreational opportunities to people with disabilities

From The McDowell News in Marion, N.C. In the picture, Willie Wilkerson slides down a tube slide at the Wheelchair Club.

Mary Woods has spent her entire career assisting individuals with special needs.

Having served 25 years in the McDowell County school system, Mary occupied positions as an assistant in special education programs and occupational therapy. She was also employed with Summer Day Camp for Special People, a camp for disabled children that ran from 1994 to 2005, and even served as director a few years.

The years of experience, being familiar with local families, and newfound free time, prompted Mary to utilize her skills and compassionate spirit to open the Wheel Chair Club.

"This is a recreational activity center for people with disabilities, including those wheelchair bound," said Woods. "It's available for individuals three years of age and up, but is not to be confused for a day care center."

The club offers a variety of activities for those attending, and has a well-experienced staff on hand to assist and share in the fun.

"We really do have a good time here," she said. "This is a great place to make new friends and socialize."

There are several theme rooms throughout the large building. Visitors can participate in a variety of activities through the day. There is a sewing room complete with machines, fabric and patterns; a "sensory" room decked out with different variations of light; a drama and theatre room where folks can act, put on a puppet show or sing a little karaoke; a room with tools for crafting anything from birdhouses to shelves; a room for reading, Bible study and board games; a computer room and much more.

"This gives homebound folks a chance to get out of the house and interact with others," said Woods. "It also gives their caregivers an opportunity to run errands and complete other tasks, while feeling good about where their loved ones are."

But the Wheelchair Club is not just an activity center. It is also a rehabilitation center that offers therapy through Play Again Therapy, Inc., out of Morganton.

Monika Lesch, licensed occupational therapist, is available at the Wheelchair Club during designated times. She is trained in neurodevelopment treatment (an international approach for treating children with Cerebral Palsy and other neuromotor disorders). She also specializes in treating children with sensory processing disorders, oral motor dysfunction, and eating disorders.

There is a large designated room to accommodate therapy sessions featuring swings, resistance balls, rope pulls and slides.

The center is also a great way to get involved with other outlets offered in the county, even state. Center volunteer Patty Wilkerson, is county director for the special Olympics team. Her son Willie, who volunteers his time at the center as well, has competed in special Olympics for years, and has received several medals in swimming events. He even received the 2007 Special Olympics Award issued by the Mountain Amateur Athletics Club.

Tina Honeycutt, also a volunteer at the club, expressed an interest in getting a group of individuals to participate in Extreme Chairing Sports, a nonprofit sports organization geared toward promoting and sponsoring disabled athletes, all while raising money for stem cell research.

"We will definitely be working on this soon," said Honeycutt. "We already participate in races and do activities like basketball, putt-putt, and several other activities."

Currently, the Wheelchair Club is open five days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Meals are not provided at the club, so those attending are asked to pack a lunch.

"If we were to serve meals, we would then be classified as a daycare center. As I specified before, that is something we are not," said Woods.