Growing up, Terri McMillan enjoyed being a track and field athlete in high school. She also wanted to help those in need, so the Jackson County Parks + Rec special populations service department was a perfect for her.

McMillan, who has a college degree in therapeutic recreation from Avila University, specializes in helping young and older adults with physical disabilities. She also helps organize events for the special populations department and is the second-longest tenured employee at 33 years.

“I enjoy helping individuals with special needs,” McMillan said. “A lot of us like sports and I help coach boccia ball and track and field. In college, the counselors suggested I get into therapeutic recreation because I love sports. They said that was a combination of both things I love.

“I was fortunate that I got this job right out of college.”

The Jackson County Parks + Rec website declares that the department is dedicated to providing multi-recreation services for the developmentally disabled.

Some of those programs include organized dances, basketball, bowling, horseshoes, volleyball, softball, gardening and out-of-town trips.

On Friday, McMillan and other employees organized Dance in the Park, gathering people with developmental disabilities for a social event with a live DJ at Lake Jacomo.

“We have some door prizes to give away, as well,” McMillan said. “And they dance for two hours and socialize. Some of them work with their peers and can’t socialize at work. This is in an event where they can gather together.

“We have individual classes as well, like craft classes and we have a group that does scrapbooking,” McMillan said. “We also have the sports section and we’re in the midst of softball right now. We also go bowling at some of the local alleys in Independence, Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit.”

Jackson County Parks + Rec usually lets those eligible know in mailed flyers.

One of those events the governmental department is promoting is the international Boccia tournament taking place at KCI airport. People from Argentina, Croatia, Germany, Brazil, Great Britain and other countries will be there.

The event begins at 8 a.m. each day Sept 24-29 at the KCI Expo Center. Boccia, which has been a part of the Paralympics since 1984, is open to all athletes with significant physical disabilities and tests each athlete's coordination, accuracy, concentration and ability to strategize.

The game can be played one-on-one, in pairs or in teams of three. The game is usually played on a gymnasium floor and the object is to throw or roll game balls from a designated area, trying to land it as close as possible to the target ball, called the jack. When all of the game balls are thrown, a referee determines how many points are awarded based on how close the thrown balls are to the jack and the team with the most points wins.

“This is a neat game,” McMillan said. The majority of people who play it are in wheelchairs. We have some who have cerebral palsy and spinal cord injuries. We also have paralyzed veterans that come. It’s really fascinating. It’s a sport not a lot of people know about.”

For more information about these events and to enroll, contact the Parks and Rec department at 816-503-4812.

“We enjoy what we do and we have programs going year round,” McMillan said.