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Teacher strives to help disabled get healthy



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Whitaker, left, recieves his award from Eick while the students of the new special physical education class watch on. Photo submitted. (click for larger version)
March 28, 2012 - School funding remains an issue nationwide and often when something, or someone, cannot receive the proper funds, it or they simply suffer.

One Lake Orion High School Teacher recently proved the same does not happen in Orion.

David Whitaker, Physical Education and Health Teacher, saw a need to give the special education kids their own gym class after realizing they needed individual attention. He said the new class has generated "a lot of good feedback."

"It's working out really well and I'm really excited for that," said Whitaker. "I originally got the idea from the special education department. These guys are always happy, want to do everything you throw at them and I'm just trying to get them some exercise. It's really what inspired me to go out and look for grants - we just really needed some accommodations and there's just no funding for it in our school."

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Enter Ken Eick, 25-year Lake Orion resident, father of a senior and sophomore at LOHS and employee at Wright & Filippis - a medical supply company founded around 70 years ago. In 1983 the company founded the Filippis Foundation which looks for organizations annually that stand out as going above and beyond health-wise. The company worked on everything from prosthetics to hospital beds and works with disabled people every day.

Recently, Eick's sophomore son, who had a sports conditioning class with Whitaker, praised the teacher at home for his work in this class and the special education class. Eick saw what the class meant to his son and decided to meet with Whitaker.

"My son was really motivated to do more with exercise because of this class and because of Whitaker," said Eick. "I wanted to meet the man and when I did, what I did for a living came up. He started talking about the new program he was starting up this school year and I thought it was really cool.

"Here's this guy with not a lot of background with disabled people who took an interest, took additional classes to compensate and is doing something to help out."

Eick asked about the equipment available to Whitaker and finding it insubstantial, decided to grant him $2,500 for new equipment. He hopes the class will grant its students the ability to exercise, get healthy and build a better self-image. In the end, he believes, it will give them better self-esteem.

"I think sports, exercise and self-esteem are incredibly important things to learn," he said. "Even after they graduate the skills they learn here will help them lead happier and healthier lives. It's this kind of stuff that really makes you proud to be a Dragon."

As for Whitaker's outlook, he's just trying to figure out what the money will go towards. Among the many ideas he has, light weights, kettle balls (a kind of safe dumbbell) a projector and Wii Fit are on the list of items for consideration. In the end, he just wants to make sure the kids are having fun.

"Parents always want to know what their kids are taking from the class," said Whitaker. I want them to learn healthy life skills as far as exercising and having fun while doing it. I also really want to make it so they continue to do it and make it a life long goal."

This is the first year Whitaker's program is in effect.

The Filippis Foundation annually gives out $20,000 to different charities. The funding comes from an optional amount from the employees and their pay checks.

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