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Program for special needs youth ends for another season

TONAWANDA - Chris Slauson was a lot of things; persistent being one of them.

It was his persistence that has led to a very successful program at the Boys & Girls Club of the Northtowns. Slauson, affectionately known as “Mr. Tonawanda,” sadly is no longer alive to see the fruits of his persistence. But his memory and love for the club were alive as the Food Fitness and Fun program wrapped up another season.

Slauson, who died in October 2011 at age 33, was a tour de force who passionately followed his beloved Tonawanda Warriors and fought for the rights of those with special needs. One of the things Slauson wanted to see was a program at one of his favorite places in the city, the Boys & Girls Club, for those with special needs.

And so, the Food Fitness and Fun program was born.

Bob O’Brocta, director of operations at the Boys & Girls Club of the Northtowns, recalls Slauson’s passion and persistence when it came to offering such a program. And with his help, O’Brocta said Slauson’s dream became a reality a few years ago.

“We had run a cooking program a few years back. We just kind of got away from it,” he said. “He (Slauson) was the one who got the ball rolling. He was the one who was consistently wanting to know what happened to the program.”

Food Fitness and Fun is now going strong, with more than 20 participants, ranging in age from mid-teens to 30 years old, this season. Participants are taught cooking skills with fresh, healthy ingredients, and then given a chance to work up an appetite for their meals by taking to the gym for some rigorous exercise.

“The kids love it. They really truly appreciate the program,” O’Brocta said. “They’ve had tremendous success with it.”

Some of the funding for the 16-week program came from a community appreciation event for Slauson held at the Franklin Street facility. Money raised at the event was split between the Slauson family and the program, which received around $1,000 for food and other purchases.

The program will start up again in October, and will continue as long as there is interest in it, O’Brocta said. Those interested in participating, or who know of an appropriate candidate for Food Fitness and Fun can call O’Brocta at 873-9842, extension 209.


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