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Families enjoy games and treats at Family Fun Fair to support MU autism center

By Adrienne Cornwall

COLUMBIA, Mo. (July 31, 2015) – In the final weeks before back-to-school arrives in Columbia, families took the opportunity to enjoy one last day of outdoor summer fun for the whole community at the University of Missouri’s Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders on Thursday.

Shawna Mabe, a nurse at the Thompson Center, is a member of an internal committee that hosts employee events at the center year-round to raise money for holiday gatherings and an annual donation to a local charity. This year, the committee added to their list of priorities: create a fun day outdoors for children with autism or other special needs and their families, who may find that larger fairs and summer activities are not a successful experience.

“The committee loves to plan events that bring a little break and excitement into what can be a long week here at the Thompson Center,” Mabe said. “This year we thought it would be fun to bring the fun out to our families.”

With help from 11 local sponsors, including service agencies, nonprofits and businesses, attendees got to make crafts like paper-plate crowns, play games like bean-bag toss, choose a face-painting design or enjoy some free play time on the GymBus, a former school bus used as a mobile gymnastics education space by instructors at Gymnastics Express.

Gymnastics Express owner Jeff Connors, who has developed adaptive gymnastics programs and works with children of all abilities in local child care facilities, said he was glad to offer the GymBus to kids at the fair for the fun and learning experience.

“Children use gymnastics skills in play – jumping, landing, reaching,” Connors said. “We concentrate on learning how to do it safely.”

Other sponsors for the day were Kona Ice COMO, Windsor Street Montessori School, Parent Link, Columbia Parks and Recreation, Access Arts, Boone County Family Resources, Easter Seals Midwest, Parents as Teachers, and brothers Jake and Logan West, who hosted a booth sponsored by RE/MAX On the Move’s Betty Jo Sydenstricker.

The Family Fun Fair raised $250 for the Thompson Center endowment fund, which was established to secure funding for another 10 years of excellence in care for individuals with autism and other developmental concerns.

“Since we have so many deserving families that are in need of resources and we sometimes help with funding other activities, we decided that the profits from the fair should go back into the Thompson Center to be used for our families,” Mabe said.