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Matt Beem
President, Kinetic Companies, Inc.

Spreading The Sunshine

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<SATURDAY, B 2008Saturday, November 14, 2009

Independence, MO – Bryant Elementary School Principal John Pye read a book to the children, parents and teachers gathered Tuesday evening in the school gym to celebrate Citizenship Day.

“Have you Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud demonstrates the importance of citizenship, November’s Independence School District character trait. As McCloud’s characters dip and fill buckets, readers come to understand the positive impact of their words and actions.

Betty Snapp and Barbara Fears are the best bucket fillers I know. Fears and my mom, who co-founded Sunshine Center School in 1975, have always packed their calendars with opportunities to share their blessings.

Sunshine Center School officially became part of the Independence School District on November 1. As one era of the school’s life fades into another, fulfilling the co-founders’ dream that services for children with special needs would one day become available through our public schools, mom’s and Fears’s hard work shouldn’t go unnoticed.

From my perspective, there have been few wells for bucket filling as deep as Sunshine Center’s. From its humble beginnings in a converted veterinary hospital building on Truman Road to its current location on Salisbury Road, the school always has given those who worked, volunteered and were served there more than special education.

I like to say I grew up with Sunshine Center. I can think of no better preparation for living and giving life.

There were the students I had the opportunity to serve through various summer jobs as a volunteer, janitor and playground assistant. Whether helping on a swimming outing or cleaning a bathroom, I always knew my work directly or indirectly served Jodi, Carrie, Lennie, Michelle, Donnie, Emily and the many others whose lives Sunshine Center touched.

There were employees who gave their expertise and passion to the school and its mission, not for large salaries or fat benefits but to be part of something that made a daily difference in people’s lives. Growing up in the shadows of Barbara, Brenda, Chris, Cheryl, Elaine, Laurie, Kim, Jan, Nancy and many others shaped my sense of what was important and lasting.

And there were the volunteers and donors, a deeply dedicated group. Floyd, Miles, Joy, Bob, Shirley, Lou, Larry, David and many others gave time and money to ensure the school continued providing the services its children and families came to expect.

The lens of time is a funny thing. As the years go by, it minimizes bad memories and amplifies good ones.

I still remember spending rainy Sunday nights water vacuuming the flooded basement cafeteria at the school’s 23rd Street location. And the smelly laundry I hauled each weekend during high school to the local Laundromat. And the long evenings watching mom balance the books and finish payroll at the kitchen table.

But those are memories. What remains are experiences and influences that have shaped my life and will last as lifetime.

Like me, I’m confident others who’ve filled their buckets at Sunshine Center can list the people who’ve touched them. Which is McCloud’s point.

We can all fill buckets. And as we focus on making others’ lives better, ours improve, too.

I’m grateful for Sunshine Center’s deep well, a repository for good I know will continue under Beth Grubb’s skillful transition to and continued leadership through the Independence Public Schools. Here’s to the next 35 years.

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