There will be lots of changes at the Texoma Autism and Behavior Intervention School when the students return to class next week. Not only will they be going to a new school building — located at the former Ardmore Christian School near the Boys and Girls Club of Ardmore —they will also have new playground equipment thanks to help from two local organizations.
Shellie Jones, academic lead and interim director of TABI school, said the new equipment was purchased with grant funds from the Valero Children’s Benefit, and members of the Forsaken Few Motorcycle Club have volunteered to install everything for free.
“When we got the incredible opportunity to move into this new location, the playground had a metal slide and other equipment that did not really meet the safety standards of 2020,” Jones said. “Fortunately we have received a grant from Valero that gave us $11,000 for a new playground.”
Jones said the new equipment will also be utilized by the Boys and Girls Club, but it will be especially beneficial to the autistic children going to TABI school. All the metal items are coated in a special paint less likely to get too hot to the touch, and the new swing set will be less likely to smash children’s fingers.
Jones said she had initially contacted a local construction company to find out how much it would cost to install the new playground, and the owner got her in touch with the leader of the Forsaken Few Motorcycle Club. The club volunteered to install everything at no cost to the school.
Club member Albert Stewart said the group is happy to help.
“We all agreed to help because it’s for our community, and we want to help local kids,” Stewart said. “There’s a lot of misleading things out there about any motorcycle club, but if you’ve been in this town very long, you know that we’re here for this community.”
Stewart said the club also holds a run for vets every December where they collect new shirts, socks, and other items for the Ardmore Veterans Center. They also have a special event at Christmas where they deliver presents and food to local families in need. The children write out their Christmas wish list, so they can be sure to get the gifts they need and want no matter how old they might be.
“There’s kids who are adults now who still think Santa Claus rides a Harley,” Stewart said. “It’s hard to buy for a teenager, and that’s why we did it the way we do. It’s personal, and the kids get what they really want.”
Stewart said the club has spent the last two Sundays working on the playground and will be returning later this week to finish the installation.
Jones said everything about this project — from new equipment, to the volunteer hours spent installing it, to even the school itself — display the generosity and giving nature of the Southern Oklahoma Community.
“At a lot of special schools, the families spend thousands a year on tuition, but at TABI our families don’t even pay a fraction of that,” Jones said. “We’re a nonprofit organization and we have private donors and grants that keep our doors open. Now with the help of Valero and the Forsaken Few Motorcycle Club, we’ll have a great new playground. I love that the whole community is pitching in to make life better for these kiddos. I think it’s an incredible collaboration.”
Stewart said they are thrilled to be helping out.
“We’re just happy to do any little thing that we can to help with the amazing things these ladies are doing for these kids,” Stewart said.