Strikes for Tykes bowls for child language program
Darrin Doman, Kevin Myhre, Colleen Baum, Eden Wagner and Neil Wagner show off their bowling skills to raise funds for children’s speech therapy. (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)
The percussive sound of pins being knocked to the board were heard on Saturday, May 13, at a fundraiser hosted by the Utah Scots Guard at All Star Lanes in Sandy. The Utah Scots Guard, an arm of the Scottish Rite — a Freemason group — invited the public out for a day of bowling and raising money for the organization’s philanthropy foundation, the Rite Care of Utah Learning Center, a nonprofit organization that provides learning and speech therapy for children without cost.
“We have a large problem in this state,” said Nate Blanchard. “A lot of children don’t have access to speech therapy and learning centers. We have two of them throughout the state, one in Ogden and one in Salt Lake.”
Blanchard has been a Mason since 2014, joined the Scots Guard in 2015 and has been elected honorable chieftain for 2018.
“It typically runs right around $1,500 to run a child through the year for speech therapy, so we’re just trying to raise more funds to get more kids through. Our goal is to donate at least one child throughout the year and more.”
Darrin Doman, a speech pathologist, is a member of the board of trustees for the Rite Care of Utah foundation and has been a Mason for five years.
“I think last year, we did over 3,000 visits,” said Doman. “The kids come to the clinic inside the temple, for free, and it’s all funded by what the Freemasons do here. All the funds that we raise here stay locally and help local charities.”
While the Scottish Rite focuses on children’s speech therapy, other Masonic branches like Shriners Hospitals focus on pediatric burns and orthotics and the York Rite focuses on pediatric vision. Services are offered to the families and children, though there are waiting lists, and are funded through donations from fundraising events, grants and the daily donations from Freemasons around the country of about $1.6 million per day at last estimate.
“This is an awesome event,” said Mary Woodard, a member of the Community Outreach Committee for the Learning Center. “Rite Care of Utah is an amazing organization that helps with communication issues. That’s speech, language, reading, and the therapy is free to the families and the kids, but it costs money. Quite often, insurance companies either don’t cover this sort of therapy or it’s at reduced rate, but you’re still paying hundreds of dollars that you might not have.”
Therapy is offered from birthdate to 12 years old because, according to Woodard, studies have shown that speech and communication issues, especially in young boys, lead to bigger problems later like bullying and sometimes prison.
“It can lead to low self-esteem, you’ve got frustration in school. Traditional therapy of the same stature runs around $1,400 for half a year. It’s very expensive,” said Woodard’s daughter Michelle, who was hired to help Rite Care’s public relations, marketing and social media image in 2015. “It’s a community issue. It’s children in our community that have this problem.”
The therapy sessions have recently been updated to include group therapy for children and their peers.
“It used to be one child, one therapist, one parent,” said Mary. “The parents are always involved in the therapy because then they can get through the homework with the kids. That’s why it works. Then it’s much more successful.”
The parents have been glad to be involved, Michelle said, because now they know how to implement the therapy at home, in homework and in daily life, a huge relief to parents who have been struggling.
“This is probably the most organized and most consistent fundraiser,” said Doman. “We’ve done a silent auction and dinners in the past. I’ve got some other ideas in the works.”
The groups are looking to branch out more to the public to help raise awareness of the need to help children throughout Utah.
“It’s one of my favorite charities. I love seeing this. If we can get 50–60 people to come out and it’s not about the bowling, it’s about having fun and being charitable, then it’s a success,” said Blanchard.
For more information about Rite Care Learning Centers of Utah, visit www.ritecareutah.org.