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.
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.
Annie’s Hope sponsors a teen retreat in which small groups of bereaving teens interact with empathetic peers, explore their concerns about a recent death, and work toward healing. Group and individual activities encourage teens to develop coping strategies by expressing themselves through arts and crafts, journaling about complicated feelings, and creating mementos of their loved ones in a candle-lighting ceremony. Annie’s Hope requires additional funding to cover the costs of its next retreat, including transportation to and from the retreat site, meals and snacks for the weekend, lodging, arts-and-crafts supplies, candles, and a nursing staff.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), a nonprofit health agency dedicated to combating muscular dystrophy and related diseases, has more than 200 offices across the country, including a location in St. Louis. To help combat neuromuscular dystrophy, the MDA sponsors 200 medical clinics and supports more than 300 research projects across the globe, and is the nation's largest nongovernmental funder of scientific research to seek cures and improved treatments for more than 40 neuromuscular diseases.
Along with research and public-health education, the MDA works to improve the quality of life for people with muscular dystrophy and related diseases through a variety of efforts including its national advocacy program, summer camps for children, and support groups.
Operation Food Search’s Operation Backpack program distributes nutritious weekend meals to chronically hungry children, as identified by their teachers or administrators. Each Friday for 32 weeks during the school year, each child enrolled in the program discreetly receives a backpack filled with simple recipes, nutrition information, and nutritious food that they can easily prepare and eat at home. Each backpack contains canned fruit, canned vegetables, two cereal items, two entrees, a dairy item, and two healthy snacks, providing enough wholesome food for two days' worth of meals.
If summer could talk, it would brag about how every year, it gets to spend its final days at the Washington Town and Country Fair. The all-ages festival combines the quaintness of the old-fashioned with the marvels of modern times, much like Charlotte's Web, but with more monster trucks. Showing off the "town" part of Town and Country, classic rock and country stars perform on the main stage, while the Midway twinkles and rumbles with carnival rides. The fair shows its "country" side with livestock pavilions, farm mechanic exhibits, and Agriland, where wee ones leans the joys of farm living while participating in pig chases. Adults get to cheer on monster truck rallies, tractor pulls, bull riders, UTV, and motocross races.