Arc receives The Tommy Wilson Memorial Grant

Funds to benefit community outreach recreation programs

AVON PARK — Ridge Area Arc applied for and received The Tommy Wilson Memorial Grant, through SHAPE America, for its community outreach programs. The grant was established by Dr. George T. Wilson and his wife, Irene in honor of their youngest son, Tommy.  Tommy was born with cerebral palsy and passed away in 1974 at the age of 16. Because of Tommy, Dr. Wilson became involved in recreation for developmentally disabled individuals. The Tommy Wilson Memorial Grant focuses on recreational pursuits for individuals with disabilities and funds must go directly to supporting individuals with disabilities in recreational activities.

Ridge Area Arc is dedicated to serving individuals with developmental disabilities and Special Sports Training and Recreational Services (STARS). STARS is a Ridge Area Arc community outreach program that focuses on sports and recreation for Arc’s consumers and individuals in the community. Special STARS serves children and adults with physical and mental disabilities in Highlands, Hardee, Okeechobee and southern Polk counties. Sports programs include softball, shuffleboard, bocce, horseshoes, volleyball, fishing, swimming, basketball, track and field, equestrian and cheerleading. 

Ridge Area Arc’s Special STARS/Community outreach is a unique program in the community. Each outing is disguised as “fun” and not only gives the opportunity for learning and community inclusion for the individuals served but also for the community’s better understanding of the unique obstacles faced on a daily basis by persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Special STARS serves several hundred individuals, nearly 40 percent of which are age 55 and over with two or more chronic diseases or conditions. This results in individuals being at an increased risk for mental and physical health issues due to a sedentary lifestyle.

Ansley Woods, Highlands County Area Director United Way Central Florida, submitted a nomination letter and praised the Special STARS program for its “unique ways of getting consumers up and moving, to keep them healthy and to have fun while doing it.”

“SHAPE America is a wonderful group of physical educators,” said Kathleen Border, Ridge Area Arc CEO. “We feel so blessed that they have recognized our great community outreach and our efforts in keeping our community healthy through sports and recreation.”

For more information regarding Ridge Area Arc or the Sports Training and Recreation (STARS) program at Arc please call Donna Scherlacher at 863-452-1295.



The SFSC volleyball team taught some basic skill techniques to the athletes and then played a couple games with them.