Community News Blackjack fundraiser benefits inclusion for children with disabilities

Community News Blackjack fundraiser benefits inclusion for children with disabilities

November 8th, 2017 by Emily Crisman in Community Metro

Chattanooga's Kids on the Block, Rivermont Elementary School and the Chattanooga Breakfast Rotary Club are hosting a fundraising event called "Boots, Beer and Blackjack" at 2 on the Roof Friday, Nov. 10 from 6:30-10:30 p.m.

The event features heavy hors d'oeuvres, boot and belt buckle contests, a DJ, dancing and, of course, blackjack. Though no money will be exchanged for the blackjack games, guests should be sure to bring their wallet for the silent auction.

Proceeds will go toward Chattanooga's Kids on the Block's "Accepting Differences" puppet programs as well as a new playground accessible for all pre-K students at Rivermont, including those with special needs. Of Rivermont's 250 students, 30 percent are considered to have special needs.

"It's all kind of tied into inclusion, so children with disabilities have access to a playground and are accepted for who they are," said CKOB Executive Director Kelly Williams.

CKOB uses puppets to help children understand complex topics that affect them. Through scripted presentations and follow-up with student/puppet interaction, children are able to open up and ask questions as if the puppets were trusted friends.

The Accepting Differences focus has three separate programs: Mental Differences, Physical Differences and, new this year, Multicultural Differences. Six programs were added this year, including Safe at School/Cyberbullying and How Do I Look?, which addresses body and self-image issues, expanding CKOB's lineup of 12 existing puppet shows.

The Accepting Differences: Physical Differences program features a blind puppet and one who uses a wheelchair.

" They talk about doing things everybody else does, they just have to do it a little bit differently," Williams explained. "Following the program, it's interesting for children to start talking about how they're different and [they] start helping each other out."

Last year, CKOB performed 468 educational programs and workshops, serving more than 60,000 adults and children in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth in its 16-county service area. Thanks to donations, foundations, grants and corporate support, the educational programs are provided to schools free of charge.

Williams said CKOB's outreach costs $250,000 annually.

The playground is expected to cost around $300,000, said Rivermont Principal Nikki Bailey.

The school's existing playground for students with disabilities, built by volunteers in the early 1980s, is at the end of its life.

About 10 years ago, the Breakfast Rotary Club funded a playground accessible for both students with disabilities and their typically developing peers, but it does not meet the safety requirements for students younger than age 5 because some features they could fall from are too high from the ground, Bailey explained.

VIP tickets for the fundraising event are $80 per person or $150 a couple, and general admission tickets are $60 per person or $100 per couple. All tickets include 5,000 blackjack "dollars"; complimentary beer, wine and buffet; and a bourbon ticket. VIP tickets also include $5,000 more blackjack dollars, access to VIP blackjack tables and complimentary bourbon drinks.

"We just want it to be a lot of fun," Williams said. "I know both Rivermont Elementary and Kids on the Block see sometimes the struggle children have in our community and the struggle parents have too when their children face differences.

"We're really excited to partner with other organizations to help the community," she said, adding that she hopes the new blackjack fundraiser will become an annual event.

The event is being held at 2 on the Roof, located at 313 Manufacturers Road, Suite 217. For tickets, visit

To learn more about CKOB or to make a financial contribution, visit or call 757-5259.

Staff writer Jennifer Bardoner contributed to this story.