Miss Western Arkansas Emily McCollum took the afternoon off on Monday, March 25, 2013 to give back to her community. She spent it learning and playing with the children of Bost’s Hand-in-Hand Witcherville site.

When asked of her experiences with disability, McCollum said she had volunteered with other children with special needs while in high school and spoke knowledgeably of Autism. So, it was no surprise that when was asked what her expectations were about the children she was about to meet, McCollum said, "I just expect loving kids. It doesn’t matter if they have a disability or not, kids are kids. They have a spirit about them that no one else can touch."

McCollum started her adventure at Bost in the four-year-old classroom, where she posed for pictures with the children and spent time coloring, drawing circles, and spying algae eaters hard at work. The misconception of the children was that she was a princess and many called her just that. She did not hesitate to join in their games; making paper bracelets, playing in the sand, and patiently answering questions about her crown.

In the two year old class room, McCollum crowned several children with the help of her new sidekick for the day, two year old Emily Carter. MCollum played a game of toss with a few of the boys. The three year old classroom, however, was full of bashfulness and shyness. At first, the three year olds would not play with McCollum, but she quickly did away with that by tickling them into grins.

Though McCollum is a crowned queen of the Miss America organization bearing the title Miss Western Arkansas, she showed a depth of heart while visiting the children of Bost that few carry in their daily lives. She received multiple invitations from her audience for a return visit. In response to these requests, McCollum expressed a wish to visit other Bost sites as well as to return to the Witcherville site.

Bost has many services available to children and adults of Western Arkansas such as Medicaid ACS Waiver, Personal Care, and Behavioral health. Other services are offered through Intermediate Care Facilities, the Adult Development Center and the Skills Training Center for adults and the Hand-in-Hand program for children.

Through Bost, making a difference begins with early intervention and early childhood education. The Hand-in-Hand program offers developmental day treatment, service coordination, nutrition, and transportation. Physical, speech, and occupational therapies are available with referral.

However, what clients and parents remember years beyond their Bost experience is a dedicated teaching staff and the compassionate way they bring the children in their care together. Bost has an integrated learning environment that allows children to play and learn side by side whether their needs are typical or special.

Bost also offers community training opportunities. One upcoming event, an Autism Seminar, will be offered on June 1 at the University of Arkansas — Fort Smith from 9 am to 3 pm. It is open to the public, but registration is due by May 10. Contact Becky Mathews for additional information at 479-478-5564.

"One hundred years from now it will be of little consequence whether or not I have owned a big car, a luxurious home or was a professional success, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child." The author of this quote is unknown, but it greets all who come to the Bost Witcherville Hand-in-Hand site and speaks volumes to the meaning Bost has to the children, men and women whose lives are touched because of them. If you want to touch the life of someone with a disability by volunteering or donating to Bost, contact the executive director, Kent Jones at 479-478-5550 or visit their website at www.bost.org.