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Mary Williams is honored with a Boone Optimist Club award.
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Originally published: 2013-10-14 14:03:27
Last modified: 2013-10-14 14:04:12

Williams receives 2013 Big Kid Award

The Boone Optimist Club presented the fourth annual "Big Kid Award" to Mary Williams at its Sept. 26 meeting.

The Big Kid Award is presented to a special person who has given their time to reach out to youth in their community and has helped to create an optimistic future for them.  

As an adapted physical education specialist in the Watauga County school system for the past 24 years, Williams has changed the lives of numerous children with special needs and their families, according to club officials.

Twenty seven years ago she founded a program call "Parent to Parent," which helps to match a parent and child with disabilities with another parent and child with the same disabilities. By doing this, the parent can have someone to talk with who really understands what they deal with on a daily basis. There are more than 400 families in the county who benefit from the program each year.   

For 10 years, Williams was the director of the program and from 1987 to 1996 she wrote and had grants funded in the amount of $224,616 to help families with special needs be able to purchase items such as wheel chair ramps and other adaptive equipment.  

Williams' most recent grant awarded in January 2013 was the Lowes Toolbox Grant in the amount of $5,000 to be used to upgrade a teaching kitchen for a program called "Coffee Talk" at Hardin Park School.  

With the estimated cost of the kitchen being around $30,000, it was obvious the funds were just a good start. However, the kitchen is now almost complete with the help of Lowes and others, club officials said. Kitchen Aid donated the stovetop, Whirlpool will donate other appliances, Lowes donated the countertops, Kitchen Maid donated the cabinets and Ken Murray installed the cabinets.  

However, as great as this kitchen will be, the most important part is the skills the children with special needs will gain from using it, officials said. 

Once a month, students host what is called "Coffee Talk." They make a list of items needed from the grocery store, go and purchase the items and make items to sell at the event.  This not only gives the children experience in learning to cook, but also healthful living, math, vocational, social, daily living and community outreach skills, according to the club. The program has grown so much during the years that the children now donate $50 each month to a local nonprofit organization in the area.

Williams has also written grants which were funded in the amount of $20,875 to support adapted physical education. 

The funds were used to purchase items such as bikes for adapted PE, a horse and riding equipment for Blazing Saddles Therapeutic Horse Back-riding Program, heart monitors and pedometers for exceptional children in PE, equipment for kickboxing, lacrosse, yoga and books for adapted PE.

"These are just a few examples of the programs Mary has developed to help the children in Watauga and surrounding counties.  It is with great honor we present, Mrs. Mary Williams with the 2013  Big Kid Award," officials said.