MS Gulf Coast Buddy Sports, Inc is currently working with Mississippi State University Gulf Coast Community Design Studio to develop concept drawings and renderings for a Special Needs Sports and Leisure Complex.
The current status:
Of all the local cities/municipalities in the six southern-most counties of Mississippi, Biloxi is the only one that most visibly provides a variety of city-sponsored recreation and leisure activities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Yet even these activities are scattered throughout the year. Recreational sports and leisure activities for youths and adults along the coast are mostly paid for and provided by organizations such as MS Gulf Coast Buddy Sports (Pass Christian), The Dream Program (Ocean Springs), South MS Special Needs Organization (SNO) (Jackson County), Coastal Civitan (Diamondhead), Ainsley’s Angels (Harrison County), MS Coast Special Needs Soccer Association (D’Iberville), South MS Down Syndrome Society (Harrison County), The Disability Connection (Harrison County), and USM Institute of Disability Studies (Long Beach)
These organizations operate independently and acquire funding independently. These organizations raise money to provide recreational and leisure activities for individuals with special needs and their families, free of charge or for a minimal fee.
For all cities along the MS Gulf Coast to provide a variety of year-round, on-going recreational and leisure activities for the youths and adults with special needs in their local communities at a minimal cost or for free.
The reality of the matter:
Most cities do not budget funds to provide recreation and leisure activities specifically for youths and adults with special needs, either through inclusive use or a separate program or activity. Usually, activities are provided by an organization in conjunction with the city or independently by the sponsoring organization.
There is also few if any, after-school programs specifically designed to address the leisure needs of individuals with special needs. While the YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, and after-school programs provided by churches and schools are available and located throughout the local area, these programs are not set up, equipped, nor staffed to provide activities to groups of individuals with special needs. As well, entities such as Millcreek, South MS Regional Center, St. Francis Community Services, REM-Oasis, Brandi's Hope, Oxford Options, and the MS Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, provide Day Habilitation, Home and Community Based Waiver Services, Sheltered Employment, and other employment and habilitation activities during the day, these programs often do not extend into the late afternoon/evenings or on weekends. Regularly scheduled afternoon and evening programs for youths and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities is lacking and is desperately need here along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In addition, the MS Gulf Coast, as part of its Hospitality, One Coast, Secret Coast push needs to provide special needs opportunities to out of town visitors that have family members with special needs.
MS Gulf Coast Buddy Sports, Inc. desires to offer a variety of year-round, on-going recreational sports and other leisure activities to youths and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities at a centralized location. These opportunities will be available Monday through Friday during daytime and evening hours and on weekends. Opportunities will be open to all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities that register with the program and are able to attend. All services and activities will be offered free of charge or for as small of a fee as possible. Other non-profit organizations providing activities for individuals with special needs will also be allowed to schedule use of the facility when available.
A special amenity will be a drop-in program. The drop-in program will allow non-frequent users to have a place for their family member to go during a time of unexpected need. The drop-in program will also be a huge advantage to families that have special needs members that are visiting here on the MS Gulf Coast. It is well-noted that many families do not go on vacations or visit areas that do not have accommodations and/or activities for their family members with special needs. Coastal Mississippi, tourism, and casinos will be able to recommend this facility as an amenity to families with special needs members that are visiting along the MS Coast.
Additional facility use:
The multipurpose building within this complex will be built to FEMA/MEMA standards for use as a hurricane evacuation center for families with members that have intellectual and developmental disabilities. While Harrison County MS has built several hurricane evacuations centers recently, places of refuge for families with severely involved special needs members is lacking. This can range from individuals with Autism that have difficulty with large crowds to individuals in wheelchairs that need special bathing facilities. This multipurpose building will be built with these type situations in mind. Included in this design will be an animal kennel for these families to shelter their pets.