A Georgia Aktion Club inspires worldwide audiences with dance and gymnastics routines.
Story by Lydia Johnson
A cheerful group of volunteers drowned out the sounds of gymnasts in action at the Georgia Special Olympics Winter Games. Enthusiastic laughter, high-fives and cheers soared over the noise of each footfall and mat squeak.
Among the volunteer group was Victoria Turney, a member of the Marietta Kiwanis Club. For years, Turney had wanted to start an Aktion Club, something she had discussed with Ron Davis, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Jonquil City, Smyrna, Georgia.
“I asked Ron if he would help me … get an Aktion Club started, with the understanding that he would be their Kiwanis liaison, their Kiwanis advisor. He agreed.”
At the Winter Games event, Turney saw her opportunity. She introduced herself to parents of the Special Olympians and expressed her goal of starting an Aktion Club. The rest is history.
The Chattooga Aktion Club, sponsored by the Jonquil City Kiwanis club, formed this past January. The first Aktion Club in the Georgia District’s Division 15, it is based at the Chattooga School of Gymnastics and Dance. The school has provided training to children and adults of all ages and abilities since 1976. Chattooga’s inclusive teams of athletes perform high-energy rhythmic gymnastics and dance routines around the world.
Collaborating with Kiwanis was an easy decision for the school’s Cindy Bickman, who teaches dance and gymnastics and serves as a Special Olympics coach. Bickman stepped up as the new Aktion Club’s community advisor and coach.
“It so fit in with our philosophy and everything that we do,” says Bickman, who started the school with her parents. “We don’t believe that people with disabilities should only be the recipient of charity. They have a lot to give. … For the past 30 years, we’ve been on a mission to show the abilities of people with disabilities.”
The Chattooga Aktion Club, comprised of athletes ages 19 to 49, is certainly no exception. This past year, the 35-member team performed for the king of Norway at the World Gym for Life Challenge in Vestfold and competed at the U.S.A. Gymnastics for All Nationals and GymFest in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“It is awesome and great because other people can see what special needs people can do,” says Stephanie Rios, the Aktion Club’s vice president.
Adds Aktion Club President Paulette Harrison, “Our coach helped us to turn our disabilities into abilities, and that has given us so much pride in ourselves. We hope they enjoy our performances as much as we do performing them.”
This story originally appeared in the April/May issue of Kiwanis magazine.