A resolution to build awareness and create initiatives for children with special needs was approved by the Pacific Board of Aldermen at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 20.
All Abilities Athletics teamed up with Mayor Steve Myers to create the “Celebrate #extraAAAordinary” initiative. All Abilities Athletics is an IRS-approved, 501(c)(3) organization designed to provide sports opportunities for children with special needs.
Now the organization is diving into building awareness and education programs.
“We need . . . acceptance, appreciation and eventually, inclusion,” said Chris Homyk, founder and president of All Abilities Athletics.
“My goal in the end is to build an environment where we have people who are willing to invest and create small business opportunities for kids with special needs,” he said.
Homyk and his wife, Stacey, created the organization after their son Eli, who has autism and is non-verbal, participated in sports programs across the St. Louis area. They saw how much joy it brought Eli and themselves, and they wanted to bring that to the Franklin County area.
Homyk said his son can do things like spell out answers to chemistry on his letter boards
“A lot of these kids have a similar story,” Homyk said. “But, for us to be able to roll out all of these inclusion programs, we need a broad network. We need community organizations, we need schools and we need political entities, like the city and county governments throughout the area.”
The organization formed in February 2017. Since then, there have been over 130 children who have participated and over 600 people who have volunteered at least once.
All Abilities Athletics is based around creating sports leagues and event days that feature kickball, soccer, volleyball, track and other sports. The organization also partners with the YMCA for a swimming program.
“The idea with the inclusion resolution is not for us to just go and gather papers. We really want partners,” Homyk said. “We want people who will help us draw on our message. We want every business in the community, every civic organization and every school to say ‘How can we include kids with special needs?’”
The goal is to get children with special needs exposure to everyday activities that typical people take advantage of, he added.
Homyk gave a couple examples. He said it would be nice if a school play or musical could have an extra performance for special needs children and their families. The organization would even pay for the admittance, as Homyk said it is well-funded.
All Abilities Athletics recently rented out an entire theater for special needs children and their families to see the “Lion King.”
Another example would be local restaurants giving a block of allotted time for the children and their families to enjoy a meal together in public. He said that it would give everyone a chance not be judged if they’re being a little loud or moving around.
This organization is the most fun thing Homyk said he’s been involved in.
“When these kids succeed, or Mom and Dad cried because their child has achieved something new, it’s worth staying up until 3 o’clock in the morning sending out e-mails,” Homyck said.
By passing the ordinance, the city of Pacific is saying it wants to be an ally to All Abilities Athletics and allow the organization to have a voice in the community.
Mayor Myers said he also has talked with state leaders about the program. Myers and Homyk will be in Jefferson City in January to speak with state representatives about making this a statewide initiative.
The organization is always looking for new volunteers. More information and contact information can be found at allabilitiesathletics.org.