The Jacksonville Ambucs Club is celebrating their 50 year anniversary. This national service organization has a mission of creating mobility and independence for people with disability. The organization was chartered on April 18, 1964 in Jacksonville.

Charter member Larry Schmaljohn has a lot of fond memories related to this group of individuals. When he was originally approached by the Springfield Ambucs Club to start a chapter in Jacksonville, Schmaljohn knew that Jacksonville could sustain a group like this. He helped to create the group that we all know today as a staple in the Jacksonville community. It has reached this milestone due to his inventive recruitment events over the years. One successful recruitment contest that Schmaljohn recalls is where the member who recruited the least amount of new members, and lost, had to ride a donkey backwards down Morton Avenue. The lucky looser was none other than Ron Gray. For another recruitment event, the group bought a pig and the looser had to keep it for a week. Schmaljohn also remembers the days of the camel and ostrich races. However, he says that the group doesn’t get that carried away anymore. According to Schmaljohn, the group has always been made up of good people doing good work in the Jacksonville community.

This group is a “small but mighty” group according to current President, Stephanie Baptist. They currently have 39 members. The group is always helping individuals with disabilities in Jacksonville. Ambucs is a part of Camp Courage. This week long camp is for children with disabilities. Each year, the Ambucs donate to this camp as well as grill out a meal for them. Last year the meal was complete with steaks and mac and cheese. Ambucs also provide custom AmTryke® therapeutic tricycles to individuals in Jacksonville and in surrounding communities. Just a few weeks ago, they were able to provide one to a boy in Waverly. For the past eight years, Ambucs has provided ramps for wheelchairs in Jacksonville as well. Baptist says that seeing a family use these AmTrykes® or ramps can bring so much joy to the group because it makes that family’s lives so much easier.

Ambucs has a partnership with the local Pathway Services Unlimited, Inc. They have been partners for many years and work together to provide the best services available to those individuals with disabilities. One way that they partner is through electronics recycling. Pathway’s main focus is recycling computers. They have a contract with the State of Illinois to receive their computers and laptops when they are no longer needed. Ambucs then provides individuals with disabilities with a laptop or desktop free of charge. Other individuals who would like to purchase a computer or laptop from the company they work with, Green Recycling Co, can do so for an $80 fee. This partnership is another way the Ambucs is able to give back to the community.

For the past 50 years, Ambucs has focused on creating a better community for people with disabilities. Thank you to the past and present Ambucs, and we look forward to another 50 years to come (with maybe a few more camel and ostrich races?).

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