DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. Aca,!" The U.S. Army Garrison Detroit Arsenal's Child, Youth and School Services and Mount Clemens, Mich., Community School District recently received the prestigious Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award.

The two agencies were recognized July 23 at the Military Child Education Coalition's 10th Annual Conference for an innovative partnering effort that resulted in an Adaptive Sports Program between the local military and civilian community.

The award includes a $1,500 cash disbursement that will be used to purchase more adaptive equipment for the sports program.

In 2004, Judy Harris, a physical therapist at Washington Elementary Academy in the Mount Clemens School District, contacted Wendy May, the Child, Youth and School Services liaison for the Detroit Arsenal garrison, to discuss options for children in her classroom who had limited opportunities for physical activity. May and Tanya Blatz, CYSS Sports director, seized the opportunity, and the partnership was born.

During the first year, the Adaptive Sports Program consisted of twice monthly visits by the CYSS staff to the school. The support for the program was so overwhelming that school visits increased to weekly at the start of the program's second year.

The children's participation in the program resulted in a significant increase in their self confidence and physical well being. One student, Jacob, said, "I want to play football when I get older. I am really getting good at catching."

All of the sports activities are adapted to accommodate the children's special needs. For example, there is a ramp for bowling so that those in wheelchairs can participate.

Every class starts with students gathering in a circle to perform warm-up stretches. "Fun" stretches are emphasized before playtime to counterbalance the hours of painful stretches that most of the children endure in their physical therapy. After stretching, a different lesson plan is implemented each week that focuses on specific motor skills, and team or individual sports.

The CYSS staff runs activity stations that include catching a ball, throwing a ball for distance, shooting at a goal, and throwing for accuracy. Students decides the stations where they want to participate. The children have fun while they are developing their motor skills and learning some of the basic fundamentals of sports.

The student's physical abilities range from being wheelchair-bound with very limited mobility, to children with braces or walkers. Some of the children are speech-impaired, but their smiling faces easily communicate the joy they get from participating.

The CYSS staff considers it imperative to include the disabled children from military and civilian communities in regularly scheduled physical activities. The CYSS staff looks forward to many more days of play, fun and companionship, while learning life-lessons from these amazing children, CYSS staff said.