CLEARWATER - Tri-City AMBUCS, formerly known as the American Business Clubs, is the Clearwater-Tampa-St. Petersburg chapter of a national network of charities dedicated to helping the disabled.
Members of the local chapter in Clearwater are active and retired professional businessmen and women, some of whom are also magicians.
Member Hugh Clay Paulk of Belleair would like to invite anyone interested in joining the local chapter to lunch.
“Call me at 587-0365 or email HughCPaulk@aol.com if you would like to learn more about our chapter,” Paulk said. “We’re seeking people who want to join us in this good work. Not one cent goes to administrative or operational costs. We members underwrite those ourselves.”
While researchers work in labs for future cures, AMBUCS members make life for people with disabilities better and brighter in the here and now.
The group meets every Wednesday for lunch at Cove Cay Country Club in Clearwater working on projects to help create mobility, independence and giggles and grins for people with disabilities.
A unique aspect to the Tri-City chapter is its use of laughter as medicine and humor as therapy. Members Jim Greiner of Clearwater, Jean McNabb of Largo and Bill Dahlquist of Tampa put on magic shows to benefit their chapter.
Greiner, a professional engineer and magician, holds sessions that teach audiences how to apply comedy magic to training programs and helping others. The chapter has supplied red clown noses and therapeutic humor supplies to local hospitals, Hospice, and Shrine clown organizations.
Tri-City’s contribution to hurricane disaster relief? A shipment of red clown noses and a supply of humorous gags sent to a Louisiana therapist volunteer to provide comic relief at shelters.
The Clearwater chapter also participates in AMBUCS’ national programs and even originated one of their own, “Before The Fall” which provides specially designed tub and shower “Grab Bars” for bathroom safety and fall prevention for the elderly. The program was so successful it was adopted nationwide.
Joe Copeland, of High Point, N.C., AMBUCS national executive director, said, “For almost 20 years the Tri-City chapter has been making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities in their community. It is the originator of the ‘Before The Fall’ bathroom grab bar program,” he said.
Copeland said the success of the local group has led to its imitation in many areas nationally. In addition to this program, the chapter has embraced the AmTryke therapeutic tricycle project, which provides children with disabilities in the Clearwater area with their own bikes.
The AmTrykes are for children with disabilities such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and poor motor control. Blind children have even received AmTrykes. Therapists find the Trykes improve the children’s motor coordination and self esteem.
AmTrykes have rotating handlebars, which are attached to the same change chain drive as the foot pedals, so the child’s arms work in conjunction with the legs when pedaling the bike. Velcro strapping and safety belts keep the rider safe. A wide wheelbase and narrow turning radius insure stability.
AMBUCS members in Longview, Texas, originally created AmTrykes in 1990 at the request of a physical therapist. National AMBUCS took over making the bikes in 1994. At present, a bicycle manufacturer constructs them. To date, 5,000 have been distributed.
Locally, the Tri-City Chapter has demonstration sites at two elementary schools where disabled students can use the AmTrykes and area therapists can bring their patients to try out them out.
Another noteworthy AMBUCS program the local chapter supports is Scholarships for Therapists. AMBUCS is the single largest private source of education grants for therapists in the country. One scholarship helps to provide therapy to hundreds of people over the course of a therapist’s career. Scholarships are awarded to students studying physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology and audiology.
Funds from the program are two-fold; they help deserving students complete their higher education and also help place therapists who completed their training in jobs within the field. Since 1955,the program has provided scholarship awards nationally to 12,641 students, totaling more than $6.6 million.
For more information, call 531-6080 or visit the website: www.TriCityAMBUCS.org
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