Archive for October, 2013


Pioneer Students Take Tennis Lessons from CHS Teams

Students from the Pioneer Center made their way to the Chillicothe Fitness & Racquet Club yesterday and grabbed tennis racquets s for some one-on-one training.  After a division-winning season, the CHS girls tennis team gave pointers on how to play the game. They were joined by their male counterparts, who also assisted in showing Pioneer students the ropes.

“The players were really looking forward to it,” said Janet Disbennet, Head Coach for CHS’s girls’ tennis. “Twice as many student athletes showed up to the Chillicothe Tennis and Racquetball Club to assist this year.”

Pioneer students learned various techniques from their friends at CHS, including how to hold their racquets, and how to get the balls they hit to land where they want. After their lessons, the CHS teams ran through a couple of drills, showing them how they play the game.

After all the bright yellow balls were picked up and racquets placed in their cases, the students from both schools were treated to a pizza party, where they interacted with one another. The social interaction was an important part of the day for both groups, as typically developing adolescents do not always have an opportunity to interact with individuals with developmental disabilities. This type of interaction helps reduce stigma and promotes meaningful integration of individuals with disabilities.

CHS encourages each of their sports teams to do at least one community project a year. The CHS Track & Field teams have hosted Pioneer students for several years, helping to prepare them for the Regional Special Olympics. The Pioneer Center would like to sincerely thank the coaches, student athletes, and the entire CHS Athletics Community for their continued support and generosity.



A Spooktacular Cowboy Day


While the rain did pour yesterday, it did not dampen spirits, as Pioneer students, their families, and adults from Easter Seals made their way out to the Charles and Daisy Black Equestrian Center for another fun-filled Cowboy Day.

Unfortunately, the precipitation prevented the outdoor activities that typically comprise Cowboy Day. However, thanks to Ginger Johnson’s Tiger Tracks organization and about 70 students from area high schools, the day was still a great success.

Ginger and her crew of dedicated volunteers converted the 20-stall stable on the grounds into a spooktacular haunted house. The haunted house was split into two sections – one scary-side, and another that was geared toward a younger audience. Student volunteers also painted faces and applied temporary tattoos on visitors. Those volunteers, as well as Pioneer staff, helped ensure that the day was a memorable one for all those involved.

Blake Tinker was another reason the day was so memorable. Blake served as Communication Intern for the day, covering the event as a beat reporter/photographer. Armed with a notepad and camera, Blake set off with great excitement to cover the events of the day. He asked several questions of the volunteers and his classmates to get a better understanding of the event. He also captured some great images. Look for Blake’s story on the event, as well as the pictures he took on this website next week!

Check out even more photos from the haunted house, compliments of Angles Photography here!



Easter Seals Donation Boosts Therapy at Pioneer Center


Therapist Chris Myers displays about the testing materials received from Easter Seals.

Thanks to Easter Seals of Central and Southeast Ohio, students at the Pioneer Center are benefiting from new physical therapy and recreational equipment. Easter Seal’s Chief Executive Officer of Central and Southeast Ohio, Pandora Dupras, called to ask if the therapists at the Pioneer Center would have a need for the items. The response was a resounding “Yes!”

Pandora said the reason for the donation was simple, “we want kids to be able to have opportunities…we want to help people become more independent.”

The donation package included gait trainers, children’s walkers, tricycles, and a battery of testing materials. Easter Seals donated two gait trainers, one with a hydraulic lift and a manual version. Gait trainers are used to position a client into a position that allows them to work on standing and walking when they cannot completely support themselves on their own. The hydraulic version will lift an individual out of a wheelchair and the therapist can stand in front and give guidance. Once in position, therapists can assist the client more thoroughly, focusing less on holding the individual upright and focusing more on clients’ postural alignment.

The testing materials are used to assess a child’s fine motor and gross motor skills in comparing to their same age peers, which helps to develop goals and to see where students are in terms of development. “We had some (testing materials), but it’s always good to have a backup, and more testing booklets are great since you are not legally allowed to make copies (due to copy write laws),” said Chris Myers, Occupational Therapist with Pioneer.

The two tricycles of different sizes were donated. These colorful lime green machines assist students with pedaling and sitting upright thanks to straps that are integrated into the bike.

Several children’s walking frames (“walkers”) of various sizes were also donated. These walkers provide additional support to maintain balance or stability while walking.

“It’s donations like this that enable the Pioneer Center to offer top-notch services and experiences to our students. Without the help of donations, we simply wouldn’t have the funds to purchase this type of equipment, as it is extremely expensive,” said Stacy Guerra, Education Director of the Pioneer Center. Indeed they are expensive; the value of the donated items stretches into the five-figure range.

The true value, though, lies in the potential for improvement in health and quality of life that the equipment possesses when in the hands of professional physical therapists.


Partnership at Equestrian Center Benefits Pioneer Students


The Chillicothe Campus of Ohio University has partnered with Ohio University-Southern and the Pioneer Center to offer events for students with disabilities at the OU-C Charles and Daisy Black Equestrian Center. During a recent event, the Southern campus’ Ohio Horse Park provided horses and equipment that enabled Pioneer students to have 30-minute individual therapeutic riding lessons, while another group of students learned how to care for horses.

OU-Southern provided six interns to assist the students in their riding and working with the horses.
These endeavors carry out the spirit of the horse farm. One of Charles and Daisy Black’s vision for the farm after their deaths was to have Ohio University Chillicothe sponsor equestrian events for individuals with disabilities.  Watching the faces of the Pioneer Students engaged in these activities revealed that riding and caring for horses instilled a sense of accomplishment for the participants.

-Office of the Dean, OU-C


Ginger Johnson & The Tiger Tracks

tiger tracks

Ginger Johnson, second from left, is a coordinator with a nonprofit organization known as Tiger Tracks through Pioneer School that helps individuals with developmental disabilities. The group helped direct traffic Sunday afternoon at Adena Mansion and Gardens and hopes to grow its volunteer efforts.


It’s easy to recognize that Chillicothe resident Ginger Johnson enjoys helping others.

Johnson is one of the coordinators of a nonprofit organization known as Tiger Tracks through Pioneer School, which allows individuals with developmental disabilities and other needs to give back within the community. Johnson was joined by members of the group Sunday afternoon at Adena Mansion and Gardens directing visitors to parking spots as part of a volunteer effort.

“Pioneer School obviously has a great following in the community, and we just want to add to that,” she said.

She also said the year-old organization wants to help in any way it can within the community and hopes to have a concession stand sometime in the spring in addition to a food truck painted like a tiger.

Johnson also keeps busy as an independent provider through the state, working with individuals with special needs, but she still lends a helping hand at Pioneer School, where she once served as a teacher’s assistant and now works as a librarian on a volunteer basis.

She added that Tiger Tracks also wants to give college scholarships to area students and said the nonprofit organization is willing to help volunteer as needed. Johnson, who is married and has two daughters, said that what she enjoys most about being involved is seeing people being happy.

“We love being in the public with the kids, and mainly, we like working with the kids,” she said.

However, Johnson is looking ahead to the future as Tiger Tracks continues to grow.

“I’m a visionary, and a lot of people have visions, but it’s just what you do with it,” Johnson said. “You sit back and think about it and hope it happens, but I’m hoping we can make it happen … but the kids just should have some fun and feel good about themselves. That’s why I do it — I love it.”

/Matthew Kent/Gazette