Young Athletes, a program designed for children ages 3-7 who are coping with cognitive and physical disabilities, returns to Maryville later this month.
Associated with Special Olympics, Young Athletes provides a month's worth of activities for children that focus on developing fine motor skills.
However, program coordinator Kristi Heideman said youngsters learn a lot more than just how to kick a soccer ball or hit a baseball off a tee.
"It really makes them feel like they are a part of something," Heideman said. "A lot of them have brothers or sisters who have activities. This lets them have something to make their families proud."
The goal is to help the children improve physically, cognitively and socially. Heideman said family participation is encouraged and helps the children build confidence.
"It helps the families by giving them a support system," Heideman said. "A lot of times parents with young disabled children don't always know what they can do to help their child feel normal. This creates an opportunity for parents to get tips and ideas from other parents."
Sessions are split between Maryville and St. Joseph, and the Maryville portion is set to begin April 16. Held 6:30-7:15 p.m. each Tuesday at Countryside Christian Church, 24899 Icon Road, the gatherings will continue through May 7. All children coping with a disability are welcome.
Students from Northwest Missouri State University are helping out as volunteers.
"If it wasn't for the volunteers, we wouldn't be able to do this," Heideman said. "We really appreciate all of the help we get."
A Young Athletes "Little Feet Meet" will take place April 27 at Savannah Middle School during the Special Olympics Northwest Area Spring Track and Field Games.
Anyone with questions about the program can call Heideman at (660) 254-3736 or email email@example.com.