The Lawton Chapter of AMBUCS held its 57th Annual Pancake Day on Monday, Nov. 5, at the Comanche County Fairgrounds Arena.
AMBUCS is a non-profit service organization with a membership of men and women who are dedicated to creating mobility and independence for people with disabilities.
Local businessman and past president of the Lawton AMBUCS Larry Holcomb said that this event is the club’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
“We are the only AMBUCS chapter in Lawton that does a Pancake Day, and it is our major fundraiser. We do it once a year, and it is a one day event,” Holcomb said. “We have it on the first Monday in November every year. We start serving at 6:30 a.m., and we serve sausage, bacon, eggs and pancakes continuously until 8 p.m.”
Holcomb explained the division of AMBUCS in Lawton, and what function each chapter plays.
“There are three AMBUCS chapters in Lawton – the Lawton AMBUCS, the Mountain Metro AMBUCS and the Great Plains AMBUCS. We also have a Junior AMBUCS, which is made up of kids that are in high school, which really speaks volumes about our teenagers. They are really great kids,” he said. “The Lawton AMBUCS is one of the oldest in Oklahoma, with a membership that is a good mix of young and older businessmen and retirees.”
A part of what keeps the organization strong, Holcomb said, is the active participation of its many members combined with support from the Lawton community.
“We’ve been very fortunate with 110 members and growing; both of the other clubs have memberships somewhere between 50 and 100,” he said. “Three AMBUCS chapters in a town of this size and all three are very active – that is impressive. In a time when most volunteer organizations are losing members it is impressive that Lawton can support all of these chapters and it just proves that Lawton is a great place to live.
“We’ve been so blessed that we can get by with one fundraiser a year, and the community really supports us – we could not survive without their help. Today, we will probably serve around 5,000 people. Lots of people just buy the tickets and don’t ever use them – they just purchase them as a donation.”
According to Holcomb, the Lawton/Ft. Sill community also gives manpower in support of the organization.
“We are fortunate to get help from several groups in Lawton. Our Co-op partner, the 2-2 FA, contributes manpower and assistance any time we need them, and they are vital in helping us put on this event,” he said. “We also receive a great amount of help from the athletic department at Cameron University. There is no way we could put on this event without all of their assistance.”
Holcomb said that AMBUCS provides AmTrykes, a therapeutic tricycle, to individuals who are unable to operate a traditional bike due to disabilities; however, their therapist first must recommend the individual by stating that the AmTryke would help that person in their therapy.
“When we experience the joy of watching a child perhaps riding their new bike for the first time, and sometimes watching his parents experience that same excitement, those emotions are a big part of why we do what we do,” he said. “This can be the first time that this child feels like they can play and do things they have never done before.”
Holcomb said that there have been some developments in the engineering of the AmTrykes that allows older children and adults the ability to use and benefit from the device.
“At our national convention last year in Oklahoma City we gave away 110 AmTrykes, half of which were given to very deserving children; however, we found that the VA has not signed off on the AmTryke as a therapeutic device for wounded veterans and they will not cover the costs,” he said. “We then worked with the VA center in Oklahoma City. With the help of the therapists for these veterans, we were able to present 55 wounded veterans with a specially built AmTryke made just for each one’s special needs.”
“Besides giving away the AmTrykes, we provide scholarships for graduate students who are going into any therapy field such as speech, occupational or physical therapy,” Holcomb said.
“We also get lots of calls from many people around town who are disabled and cannot afford a wheelchair ramp on their house. They contact one of the AMBUCS clubs and then we go out and build them a wheelchair ramp,” Holcomb said. “This is something we do on weekends and on our days off but the rewards are great when we see someone who has been homebound because they could not get off their porch come down that ramp.”
According to Holcomb, AMBUCS sometimes join forces with other organizations in order to provide aid and raise funds.
“Back in 1990, when there was a major tornado in Oklahoma City, we wanted to do something spur of the moment to help. Our club and the local Kiwanis Club, which also has an annual pancake day, pooled our resources, abilities and people, and we just threw together a pancake day in a matter of a week or two; we raised about $10,000 that we sent to Habitat for Humanity.”
Holcomb expressed his gratitude for the community’s support.
“We really appreciate the support of the community, and not just with Pancake Day, but also with everything we do – we couldn’t do it without the help of everybody in Lawton,” he said.
Holcomb offered several ways in which an interested person could get involved.
“Monetary donations are always great. If a person is a contractor and would like to help out, a lot of times we just take our Saturdays and go build wheelchair ramps, but if somebody wanted to bring their expertise, or equipment or whatever, that could come in handy too,” he said. “Or if someone is interested in just joining AMBUCS, it’s not an expensive deal. We meet once a week and it doesn’t cost much more than the cost of your meal.”
Additional information about the Lawton AMBUCS or membership is available at www. lawtonambucs.org. Specific questions can be directed to any AMBUCS member, by emailing Rick Kerr at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 580.355.0814.