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Boys at Marygrove in Florissant played football together on May 26. Marygrove, which provides treatment and support to young people struggling with emotional and behavioral issues, is supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal.
Boys at Marygrove in Florissant played football together on May 26. Marygrove, which provides treatment and support to young people struggling with emotional and behavioral issues, is supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Added recreation counters isolation at Marygrove

Staffer’s sore muscles all in a day’s work as pandemic means residents are staying put

Keanan Mitchell, assistant supervisor of Willowood Cottage residents at Marygrove, often is sore these days after playing with the children.

Girls played on the swings at Marygrove in Florissant on May 26. Marygrove has ramped up recreation activities for the children during the pandemic.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
“After dodge ball, I feel like a truck hit me,” Mitchell said with a smile, a clue that the kids find him a desirable target.

With the campus of the Catholic Charities agency closed to outside visitors and residents remaining on site due to the coronavirus pandemic, recreation activities have ramped up.

The soreness doesn’t bother Mitchell, though. “I love engaging with the kids,” he said. “Some don’t have role models, and they love the attention.”

Marygrove provides treatment and support to young people struggling with emotional and behavioral issues resulting from abuse, neglect and other traumatic experiences. The program serves more than 200 children every day (with about 1,000 served every year). As a Catholic Charities agency, it’s supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal.

Residents’ participation in sports, fitness exercises and arts and crafts classes leads to significant progress toward their goals, with self-esteem, values and discipline a part of the learning process.

Staff engagement in those activities helps the children feel comfortable. Mitchell, who supervises 5- to 12-year-old boys, enjoys giving them tips on the proper way to throw a football or hit a ball.

There’s plenty to do on the grounds of Marygrove. Science experiments, arts and crafts, nature hikes, campfires, basketball, swimming, kickball and board games including chess, are among the activities.

Marygrove is keeping the children isolated to avoid exposure to the virus, a policy that will be re-evaluated July 1 along with other safety measures put into place earlier this year. Providing extra necessities such as healthy meals and snacks, art supplies and sports equipment and therapeutic counseling has meant a jump in costs, said Gabrielle Ballard, marketing and events coordinator at Marygrove. They’re seeking additional help from the community to meet those costs.

The children and young adults at Marygrove live in a safe and nurturing environment, and they have an opportunity to heal in a stable, family-like setting. Professional caregivers provide structure while therapists provide an individualized treatment program and counseling to help each child overcome personal obstacles and establish responsible, attainable goals for the short and long-term future.

Ziara McDowell, a resident technician who works with girls ages 5-12 at Evergreen Cottage, said she’s especially pleased with the items the girls have been making. Included are picture frames and artwork that they show their parents on video calls during family therapy. The calls are held since parents can’t come on campus due to the virus restrictions.

McDowell also enjoys being outside with the residents. “They enjoy the fresh air and play,” she said as some of the girls swung on a swing set. “They played Uno and made slushies” among other activities, McDowell said.

Her focus, she said, is letting them enjoy themselves and relax. “For some, it’s hard,” McDowell said. “It a little difficult because they were used to going on visits, but they’re managing very well. I applaud my girls. They have worked very hard.”

>> How to help the mission

The mission of Marygrove is to provide quality mental health services to severely disturbed children, young adults and their families who are economically disadvantaged.

Programs and services include:

• Therapeutic residential treatment

• Therapeutic foster care

• Crisis services

• Marygrove school

• Transitional living program

• Independent living program

To assist Marygrove’s emergency response fund covering additional costs due to the coronavirus pandemic, visit bit.ly/3guCA29 or mail a check to Marygrove, 2705 Mullanphy Lane, Florissant, MO 63031.

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