By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
A woman who has given many years to making life better for those with disabilities is a finalist for the 2013 Pillar of the Plains award, to be announced Jan. 9.
Family physician Dr. Barbara Whinery is one of four finalists for the award sponsored by the Enid News & Eagle and community partners. The other finalists are Mary Laster-Porter, Ken Corbin and Gail Wynne.
Pillar of the Plains honors local people who have been active in the community. A reception where the winner will be announced is 5:30-7 p.m. Jan. 9 at Convention Hall.
Whinery is the driving force behind the creation and work of the 4RKids Foundation.
Created in 2003, the start-up of the foundation reads like a stroke of good luck. An initial event intended merely to bring awareness to those with special needs ended up raising a lot of money and launching a foundation dedicated to making life better for the people it serves.
Whinery, who has practiced in Enid since 1988, and her husband, Bret, are parents of three children — Kevin, Kendra and Jacob. Jake, 23, a 2011 graduate of Chisholm High School, has Down syndrome.
“In 2003, I decided I wanted to bring a Buddy Walk to Enid to bring awareness,” Whinery said.
Shannon Goodwin, a special education teacher at Chisholm Public Schools, agreed to help with the Buddy Walk. About 200 people participated in the event and it turned into a fundraiser, even though that wasn’t the plan.
“We raised over $20,000,” Whinery said. “We just looked at each other and asked, ‘What are we going to do with this money?’ And the obvious answer was put it back into the community for kids who have special needs.”
Tricia Mitchell, program director for 4RKids, said Whinery’s vision has provided the guiding light for the 4RKids Foundation.
“She has a goal for the organization and everything she does is geared toward that,” Mitchell said. “She believes everyone can contribute — to society, to work, to the community. She believes everyone should have the chance.”
The organization launched with that 2003 Buddy Walk now provides a variety of supports to adults and children with all sorts of disabilities.
“We do provide vocational opportunities through Putt-Putt and both gift shops, and an employment center where we make products, jewelry, bath salts and lotions, we do shredding — lots of different things,” Mitchell said.
4RKids cosponsors Miracle League baseball with AMBUCS during the spring.
4RKids helps with education and partners with other entities to bring in training. It also makes grants to teachers each year.
4RKids now employs 35 people. One of them is Bret Whinery, job coach and operations manager. Bret Whinery also goes about in the community finding jobs for developmentally disabled adults.
“I consider it my personal responsibility to give back to this community more than I receive from it,” Whinery said. “Because of life’s circumstances, my husband and I have become advocates for children and adults with special needs. It’s very important to us that these individuals have a real voice and presence in the community.
Whinery was nominated for Pillar of the Plains by Mitchell.
According to the 4RKids website, the organization’s mission is to promote community awareness and provide vocational, educational and social/recreational opportunities for special-needs children and adults.
The headquarters is at 710 Overland Trail, and a downtown gift shop is located in The Non-Profit Center.
The annual 4RKids Walk/Run, held each fall at David Allen Memorial Ballpark, is the organization’s largest fundraiser, offering a family friendly carnival free to all who participate in the Walk 4RKids event. Teams often form in support of a developmentally disabled friend or family member.
The event is a celebration of the abilities all people possess.