Biloxi looks to expand services for residents with special needs - - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi looks to expand services for residents with special needs


By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi wants to do more to get to help its disabled residents lead active lives. City officials say they are expanding recreational services because they don't want those with special needs to feel left out of anything, including Easter celebrations. 

Courtland Shoemake collected brightly colored eggs on Biloxi Town Green on Saturday. The eight-year-old's mother said keeping Courtland occupied isn't always easy.

"It's hard finding activities," said April Courtland. "Right now she plays soccer for the special needs. She enjoys that right now, but that's about the only thing she can do."

The Easter egg hunt also included prizes and a picnic lunch. The city of Biloxi and the Biloxi Edgewater Civitan Club said their partnership is to make sure both children and adults with special needs didn't miss out on Easter celebrations.

Keith Wilson of the Biloxi Edgewater Civitan Club said, "It's not about the disability. It's about the abilities of everybody that comes out to this event, and we just want to make sure that they can live a lifestyle that is similar to people who don't have disabilities. I think that's really important that we show awareness for that."

For more than a decade, Biloxi has run a sports league and a summer camp for the disabled. Recently city officials say Biloxi has begun to expand services.

"This is our second time. Last year I think we had 10. Today you can see we have about 50 kids," said Sharon Bell, Assistant Director of Leisure Services. "We're looking at doing a special night like a movie night, maybe even a swim night just to get the parents to start bringing them out to see that we provide those types of activities."

Bell said, "You just can't exclude them. They may have a disability, but they look the same as us. And some of them do talk; some of them don't talk. They can hold conversations. I think it's important to include them in anything that we do."

Biloxi officials say they are considering adding other activities for people with special needs like bowling and tennis leagues.

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