Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Bean bag toss, jump rope, jumbo Connect 4 and hopscotch were just some of the activities made available to children while parents gathered information from various post resources during the Exceptional Family Member Program’s Chalk the Park meet-and-greet event Aug. 6 by the barrier-free playground behind the Post Theater.
“The purpose of the event is to bring new families together to come find out about resources, to include EFMP, family advocacy, school support services and the (Combined Arms Research Library), and to also meet one another,” said Jessica Brushwood, EFMP program manager. “I just thought it would be fun to have various activities in addition to the EFMP barrier-free playground, and chalk is a fun summertime activity.”
Families have access to multiple resources at Fort Leavenworth through the EFMP program both medically through Munson Army Health Center and support through Army Community Service.
“ACS EFMP is the family support side, so we provide families with information and referrals,” Brushwood said. “My hope for them is that they will adjust quickly to a new community, and that they will find the support and resources that they need and be prepared to be their family member’s best advocate.”
Bethany Martinez, mother of 7-year-old Alex, who has special needs, said they’ve already received an abundance of support from Brushwood since they arrived July 10 from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
“We just kind of found that even though we were on the same network system, things were just different here. I went to an ACS pool event, they gave me Jessica’s information, and literally she’s calling me,” Martinez said. “It’s so much better here. I never had anyone at ACS even try to contact me at my old location.
“(Brushwood) even got me in touch with the school, …so the special education department was able to get his paperwork early,” she said. “Our kids have been out of school because of COVID-19, so you’ve got a kid that’s going into second grade with special needs that has not been in a typical classroom for the past year and half. I’m just looking forward to seeing how he’s going to integrate into this school system where they have smaller classes, there are more resources to help them, there are more aides and how he’s going to develop in that environment socially.
“(Eisenhower Elementary School) looks like Hogwarts. …Everything is open. It just looks like a place the kids are going to want to come to, and everybody at the school is very nice and helpful.”
Allison Szorady, mother of 6-year-old Jace and 8-year-old Wes, who both have special needs, said she appreciated the effort put into the event.
“This is fantastic just getting in touch with the services, meeting new families with kids in the same situation…when coming to a new post,” Szorady said. “It’s always different, so just having all the resources in one spot has been really helpful.
“(While at Fort Leavenworth), I’m hoping for smoother transitions and maybe some clubs to participate in and just resources in general,” she said. “We’re having a hard time finding (Applied Behavior Analysis), so EFMP is going to reach out to me with more information that will make transitioning and finding a company easier.”
EFMP hosts free recreational bowling each month for EFMP families to participate in and meet other families, Brushwood said. The next bowling event is 2:30-4:30 p.m. Sept. 4 at Strike Zone Bowling Center. Brushwood said she’s also hoping to start an EFMP Lego Club in the fall.
For more information on EFMP, call 684-2871.