In 2010, 2-year-old Ella McPheeters was diagnosed with autism. Her parents, Hope and Sam, soon became frustrated with the long waiting lists for behavioral-therapy programs and other services and decided to do something about it. They rallied the local community and won a Pepsi Refresh Project grant to found Ella's Hope for Autism. Ella’s Hope aims to raise awareness of autism and increase the availability of therapeutic resources for young children with autism-spectrum disorders. Working with the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Ella's Hope also sponsors scholarships for families and maintains an autism lending library.
The astronauts deftly dodge the oncoming trickle of rocks and debris from the meteor shower, and as the rubble clears they see the Moon up ahead. It is at this site that they?ll soon establish the first permanent human base. Though it sounds like science fiction, novice astronauts attempt this feat daily at Challenger Learning Center-St. Louis. Part of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education?a nonprofit founded by the families of the astronauts who died in the 1986 Challenger space-shuttle mission?the center educates visitors in science and teamwork with its space simulators. Whether navigating a spacecraft or abetting astronauts at a Mission Control modeled after NASA?s Johnson Space Center, student, community, and corporate groups must maintain a cooperative spirit while assembling a probe, or being the first human to land on Mars.
While childhood obesity is a topic that receives widespread attention, registered nurse Jean Huelsing uncovered a facet of the issue that many have overlooked: Some of the very "fat camps" designed to help overweight kids slim down were actually part of the problem. She takes issue with these camps’ short-term approach, as they rely on fast-acting diets rather than instilling healthier lifestyle habits. Striving to succeed where other camps failed, Jean started Camp Jump Start in 2003 and, just three years and a score of happy campers later, founded The Living Well Foundation to extend the reach of her holistic-wellness principles.
The organization now hosts a wide range of camps for adults and children alike. They’re held at Living Well Village, which occupies 250 acres in the woods, where campers can develop a love for active pastimes through outdoor activities, such as navigating ropes courses, fishing, and juggling beavers.
Working as a pediatrician in 2004, Dr. Joe Cangas noticed that many local children didn’t wear helmets while riding their bicycles. Concerned for their safety, he began talking to children at local schools and founded Helmets First! as his mission grew. As the Helmet Doctor, he conducts regular talks at neighborhood schools, clubs, and community centers, teaching youth about the importance of wearing helmets. His organization also runs events where it distributes free helmets to youth from low-income backgrounds after measuring their heads for the proper fit. Only with a proper fit are helmets effective at preventing traumatic head injuries. Since its inception, Helmet First! has donated more than 14,000 helmets to local youth.
Fire. Hammers. A pottery wheel. Some of humanity?s most elemental and primitive tools, yet into the 21st century they remain. And Craft Alliance Program Director Susan Donahue Yates attests that they?re some of the coolest. With each season?s catalog of classes, some of the most popular, according to Yates, let students play with fire, hammer metal into jewelry, or shape a lump of clay into something as fundamentally beautiful as a baby seal mimicking the Mona Lisa?s wry smirk.
At Craft Alliance, the focus is art in all its forms. Whether the tool is the raw flame fusing cut copper or a Mac loaded with Photoshop image-editing software, the intention to inspire and to create remains the same. Its two locations schedule seasonal terms with four- to six-week classes, as well as intensive workshops and children?s classes. Guiding each student along his or her adventure, skilled faculty instruct from experience. Most are working artists who exhibit their work and who have reaped their experience from the trenches of the art world.
Craft Alliance is not just empowering people with knowledge; they are also helping people make mugs, bowls, wooden spinning tops, rings, rugs, and digital photo albums. Many of these things are practical and serve a functional purpose. But many do not?they?re just beautiful things, like vestigial tails. A good number of these pieces are created by hand and are meant to remind us, as Yates remarked, that everyone can do something different from their everyday, workaday lives by adding beauty to a world that truly needs it.
The student and faculty artists backbone the Craft Alliance community, which in 2014 celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Grand Center location represents a regeneration of an arts district already pillared by the Fabulous Fox Theatre, Powell Symphony Hall, and St. Louis University.