A trip to the rodeo helps many children

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 30, 2003

One of things about loving your work is that you are always mixing business with pleasure. Add a little civic duty into the mixture, and you've got a recipe for fun. As a fairly new member of the Civitan Club, the annual rodeo snuck up on me and I didn't get to participate in the preparation stages as much as I had hoped to. Since I've been drafted for the concession stand, I believe I'm going to more than make up for it by Sunday …. flashbacks of seven years at McDonald's are coming back to me and they aren't pretty … .

But it is so worth the effort. When I first came to Andalusia, I was asked by many civic group to visit and to consider joining. I weighed them all carefully - all had wonderful projects and goals and driving forces. But the Civitan's concern for children with special needs was the one that provided a goal closest to my own. My husband's brother has a son with cerebral palsy, a result of a bout with viral meningitis when he as only one. Now 11, Andrew is an amazing child - incredibly bright, with a sly humor that seems years older than he is. Crowned with a mop of glossy chestnut curls, the color women pay thousands for in Hollywood boutiques, he is probably the most popular child in his school.

He is also in a wheelchair and probably will be for life. His speech is difficult to understand for those not used to it - or not patient enough to hear him out. If it were not for the wonderful tools and aids provided by groups like the Civitan Club, from speaking computers to power wheelchairs, the world might not have ever gotten to know Andrew for the intelligent, funny kid I know him to be.

My own sister has a son who just turned 15. He has a variation of autism called Asbergers - not as severe as most types of autism, it allows him to be fairly interactive with other people, but he still travels in his own sphere, only making contact when he's forced to. He, too, is incredibly bright. He, too, has been allowed to share that gift with his community through materials provided by the Civitan Club and others.

If either boy had been born 100, or even 50 years ago, their prospects would have been far grimmer than they are today. They might have been able to look forward to a life spent in an institution, trapped not only behind walls of brick and stone, but walls of ignorance and misunderstanding. I cannot say enough about those who have helped break down those walls, those who are trying to keep those walls from ever being built to begin with - except "Thank you."

Thank you for my witty and wise nephews, for the help you have offered their wonderful parents, for the sharing you have given, for the caring you have shown.

If you did not get to the rodeo last night, please go tonight. You are not just dropping a few bucks for some entertainment - although there will be that and plenty more - you are helping tear down the wall.

Mary Reeves is the Neighbors editor and a regular columnist for the Star-News.