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Obstacle Course, Barrier-Free!

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Earlier this month, the Child Development Center (CDC) brought its Flathead Valley kids and families together at Kalispell’s Lawrence Park for a colorful afternoon of egg-balancing, slip-n-slidin’, blanket races, leap frogging, water-balloon throwing and more crazy fun!

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The kids faced plenty of obstacles, but not barriers.

Children and teens with developmental differences—which is true of the kids in Child Development Center’s programs—too often face barriers to social and physical recreation. Sometimes an activity or space isn’t physically accessible. Sometimes, kids with disabilities or delays aren’t encouraged to participate, because other people are afraid they aren’t capable. But a little modification, support and encouragement is usually all that is needed to make it possible for EVERYBODY to join!

“I love it when we introduce our kiddos to activities and experiences they don’t normally get to participate in,” said Marita Franklin, CDC Family Support Specialist and one of the three event organizers. “We started brainstorming what this day would look like, and it grew into an event that could enhance all the developmental domains (social, physical, communication, cognitive and adaptive skills).”

IMG_3282The Child Development Center partners with families to support the developmental needs of children where they live, play and grow.

Kids learn through play. It’s not just “all fun and games”; it’s fun, games and LEARNING. At the obstacle stations, kids were learning to cooperate, to think through a challenge, to follow rules, to exercise motor skills, to practice good sportsmanship, to try something new. These are all important tools for building a healthy, happy life.

Melissa Jez, another event organizer and CDC Family Support Specialist, invited the Flathead Moose Rugby Team to be part of the event. A member of the team was posted at each obstacle station, demonstrating how to tackle the challenge and cheering on the kids.

“I wanted the kids to look up to the Rugby Team as role models. I knew they would encourage the kids to try their best and have fun doing it!” she said.

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“Some of the guys were unsure of themselves at first, but it didn’t take them long to realize that kids are kids. We found ourselves watching the sheer joy in each child as they either dove into an activity with no fear, or worked up the courage to try something new!” said Sean O’Neill, one of the Rugby Team players. “As a team supported by this community, it’s important to us to give back. This day gave us the opportunity to help kids be kids and impact some unique summer fun.”

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It wasn’t just the Flathead Moose Rugby Team who joined in the fun. Many of the kids’ siblings and even cousins participated, as well as CDC staff members’ children. A big THANK YOU also goes to the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, whose support to CDC helped make this event possible.

“Melissa, Marita and I wanted to make the event have a community feel to it. An inclusive community is really important to us,” said Kristin Hoffman, CDC Family Support Specialist and the third member of organizing trio.

As for the kids, I think their faces say it all, but 9-year-old Elsa, an event participant, summed up the day:

“It was cool, exciting and FUN!”

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