Heidi Harmon was skeptical about enrolling her son Bailey in a program for children with disabilities.
Harmon’s son, for the first time this summer, is a participant in 3 Lynx, a middle-school program coordinated by the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District’s before and after school services department.
Components of 3 Lynx includes Camp Lynx, an all-day summer camp that provides opportunities specifically geared toward middle and some high school youth; a school year program that is offered daily after school and on early-release, non-school and snow days. Homework, club options, mentoring, career exploration, peer relationship building and snacks are also elements of the program.
“I am very impressed with the district to recognize that this is a need and acting (on that need),” Harmon said of the third-year 3 Lynx program. “My son, Bailey, is having the time of his life. The staff took time well in advance to come to his high school to observe and get to know him prior to him ever coming, which was also impressive. We met several times to make sure they understood his needs and were able to provide whatever he needed and welcomed him with open arms.”
Harmon said her skepticism with the program came from past experiences. Now, with summer break headed towards an end and the fall semester nearing, Harmon is a believer and supporter of 3 Lynx and Camp Lynx. She even emailed the Journal to talk about the impact the program has had on her child and others that face similar situations.
“My son is severely disabled and I struggle on a daily basis with quality people (and/or) programs for him to be part of and care for him,” she said. “I was skeptical when I learned of this program as I have had bad luck with others. But I am so impressed and happy that I wanted to let someone know. He has been able to be so active, go on so many field trips, is happier than I have seen him in a long time. He has gone to the T-Bones game, Steamboat Arabia Museum, swimming every Tuesday at (The Bay Water Park in south Kansas City), a movie about once a week, Paradise Park, the Zoo and so much more.
“It is so hard for these kids to have this amount of fun sometimes, but they are making it happen and Bailey is smiling every time I pick him up.”
Dawn Butler, director of the R-7 district’s before and after school services program, said the fee-based 3 Lynx program is just one of many offered by the department. Others include SummitRise, a new program introduced last school year for elementary students and held on late-start Wednesdays in the district; KC Cubbies for children ages 3 to 5-years-old, and Kids Country, an award-winning before and after school program providing care to students in Kindergarten thru sixth grade at all 18 elementary schools in the R-7 district.
“Ten years ago, the director of special education approached me as I became the director and asked would I consider accommodating students with special needs,” Butler said. “I’m like, ‘sure,’ and he said, ‘we can support you and give you additional training since these families are having a hard time finding a quality child care for their kids.’
“Definitely has been a growth process with growing pains, but along they way, huge celebrations.”
Butler added 3 Lynx is also available for able-bodied middle school children of the district.
“I’ve worked for two other large school districts in the metropolitan area and I loved it,” she said. “I have nothing bad to say about it. But, Lee’s Summit has given these families an opportunity that I don’t see anywhere else…across the state or the nation. It’s like going down a really busy freeway and hitting every green light and never having a yellow and never having a red. That’s what it is like.”
Added Harmon: “It’s a great thing, and they work so hard to provide for these kids in Lee’s Summit and make them smile throughout the summer.”