Recreation Council of Greater St. Louis provides leisure activities for those with physical and mental disabilities

By Charlotte Beard

Most people agree that their concern for finding something physically fun to do comes from trying to decide what they want to do. However, there is a large population of people that finds what they want to do is only half the battle. People with physical or mental challenges must contend with accessibility for recreational and leisure activities. 

The 2017 Annual Report for the Recreation Council of Greater St. Louis shows that the agency served more than 4,900 individuals through the provision of various programs and services related to recreation and leisure needs.

The Recreation Council has a mission to promote, support and ensure that people with disabilities have opportunities in all recreation and leisure activities throughout the Greater St. Louis area. It was formed in 1983 to support all age groups after recreation personnel and parents of people with disabilities made their desires known for one community resource for recreation opportunities. 

Kate Banister, who is also President of Assess-4-All, LLC (www.access-4-all.com), is the planner and host of the council’s Annual Evening of Entertainment: Spotlight on ABILITIES fundraiser. The sixth annual event, which raised $5,000, was in April 2018 and the next one will take place March 28, 2019. The fundraiser provides 50 people each with a $100 voucher for camp or other recreational opportunity of their choice.

The talent show fundraiser normally features eight to 10 acts. Banister shared that participation is on a first-come-first-serve basis for performance slots and that the event has never had an act try-out or participate that was deemed not worthy. Inquiries for participation or other information may be directed to Katie Banister at 314-481-0633 or katie@access-4-all.com. Website information is available at: www.plboard.com/a/SPEC10/news.htm.

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities like this where people with disabilities get to showcase their talent. One gentleman couldn’t enunciate very well, but he got up there and read a poem he wrote. It’s a nice and supportive environment where people have an opportunity to shine. We have youth and adults compete for cash prizes. Each act must include at least one person with a disability. It’s just an amazing experience. The people who won this past year were a group of adults with downs syndrome. They had on beautiful choir robes and danced and lip-synced to the Alleluia Chorus. At the end everybody stood up! So, we all knew who the winner was this year. We had a rapper who rapped about his autism. We’ve had magicians, comedians…it’s just a beautiful night. We also have food for sale and a silent auction.”

Banister shared that the rapper, Charlie ‘C-Quig’ Quigless won first place in the youth division.

“I have been singing ever since I can remember,” shared Charlie. “I started writing music when I was nine or 10 years old.”

“He could hum a tune before he could actually speak,” stated his father, Dr. Charles Quigless. 

He also shared that he taught Charlie to handle his memory by adding a tune, such as in the case of memorization for tests. Charlie released his first single, ‘Autism’ when he was 14-years-old. It currently has over 4,400 views on YouTube (under C-Quig). His EP, ‘Against All Odds,’ was released this past summer 2018. His music can be found on all music streaming platforms.

Sixteen-year-old Quigless was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Originally, his parents thought it was a hearing problem. Professionals suggested that he be taught sign language, but Dr. Quigless who is a chiropractor and acupuncturist, had an objection to the original diagnosis.

“My wife started getting different (professional) services involved,” shared Dr. Quigless, “and I started treating him at night using auricular acupuncture points while he was sleep.” 

Today Charlie lives with a high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. Dr. Quigless advises families get familiar with and connected to the Department of Mental Health and their affiliated agencies for the best outcomes, especially after receiving a diagnosis.

The council serves St. Charles and St. Louis Counties, and St. Louis City. St. Charles is served out of the St. Peters office at 60 Gailwood Drive, Suite C and the St. Louis area is served out of the 200 South Hanley, Suite 100 office. The volunteer staff consist of: Susan Fleming – Executive Director, Vicky Kunderer – Administrative Assistant, Peggy Welker – St. Louis County Coordinator, Lexy Kunzman – St. Louis City Coordinator, and Carol Callahan – St. Charles County Coordinator.

Banister who is a paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down, has been a proud member of the council’s board since 1993. 

“I was in a car accident in 1990,” shared Banister. “Before having the accident, I got my degree in recreation but when I had the accident I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I heard about the Recreation Council and I went to one of their programs. Between having a disability and a rec degree, it was a perfect fit. I met Sue Fleming in 1992 and joined the board in 1993. This board is amazing. Sue wants to make sure that people with disabilities have access to recreational opportunities and she does that every day.”

The council provides many recreational related services not limited to referrals, and collaborations for accessibility to golfing, bike rentals, and a parks and recreation partnership project. Primarily, funding sources come from three agencies: Developmental Disabilities Resource Board, St. Louis Office for Developmental Disability Resources, and the Productive Living Board for St. Louis County Citizens with Developmental Disabilities.

“We have a good reputation with all three of those groups.” stated Banister. “They know that we are going to take that money and put it to the best use possible.”

Banister also shared that funding is dispersed from the tax distribution labeled “Sheltered Workshop” shown on yearly tax bills. 

“The money collected from that tax goes to the Productive Living Board and the board disperses it,” she said.

The council continues to search for ways to make their presence known in the community. The council also takes opportunities to bring awareness to the community through forms of outreach. 

“We’ve gone out and (facilitated) disability awareness programs,” Banister stated of her collaboration with Executive Director Fleming. “I talk about my disability and she talks about working with people with disabilities. It’s very entertaining (but) educational, too.”

Resource assistance is made available by calling 314-726-6044. For more information about the Recreation Council of Greater St. Louis visit www.plboard.com/a/SPEC10/index.htm.

CUTLINE: Submitted photos Participants in the 2017 Evening of Entertainment talent show fundraiser for the Recreation Council of Greater St. Louis must perform an act with at least one person with a disability.