Rotary says goodbye to Belize girl aided by club
By Jason Silvey
Sentinel News Staff

http://www.morningsentinel.com/news/2004/0615/Front_Page/005.html

Dr. Dee Boswell, and his wife Sue, kneel next to Stephanie Missark, at the Rotary Club meeting Monday at J.J.’s Buffet in Centralia. The 4-year old from Belize received necessary orthopedic surgery as part of a project conducted by the local Rotary Club and the Shriners Club. Also pictured are, FROM LEFT, Rotarians Tom Kasten, W. Gregory Kleeman, Walter Plassman, Milo Hindman, Les Erv, Ward Sneed, Nate Rothschild, Tom Nicolay, and Art Nitz.

CENTRALIA — This Sunday, June 20, four year old Stephanie Missark will return to her home in Belize with more pride in her step.

She was the most recent recipient of orthopedic care provided by the local Rotary and Shriners clubs. The program, known as the Belize Crippled Children Project, began in 1978. Its mission is to locate children in poverty stricken homes who need medical, and often surgical, help. Those children are then brought to Southern Illinois. The families incur no expense. The Rotary pays for the air fare and finds host families to take the children in during their time in the area. Medical care is provided by the Shriners’ Hospital in St. Louis.

Missark was taken in by Dr. Dee Boswell and his wife Sue of Centralia, and he declared the Rotary/Shriners effort to be "a wonderful project."

Boswell said that before her surgery Missark suffered from a "severe deformity of both legs." They were both extremely bowed due to a condition known as Blount’s Disease and required corrective orthopedic surgery.

Missark has lived with the Boswells since December. With their own children grown, a period of adjustment was natural, especially "[Stephanie’s] adjustment to us," Boswell said. Now, he is sure that they are "both going to miss each other" and added that he and his wife "really grew to love [Stephanie]."

Missark left behind her parents and a brother in Belize. Contact between the Boswells and Missarks was conducted through letters managed by a liaison. Belize is located in Central America. Its population is around 260,000 people who speak English, Spanish, Creole, Mayan, and other Native American languages.

On March 1, Missark received surgery to straighten her legs, and Boswell praised the work done by Shriners’ Hospital Doctors Perry Schoenecker and Jack Sheridan. However, the responsibility does not end there. All of the children helped by the project are treated by Shriners doctors at a clinic in Belize.

Missark used a walker and wore casts for a time. She currently has braces on her legs, which she must wear for the next three months, although she now is able to walk largely unassisted. "She’s quite an independent little lady," Boswell said.

Boswell said of Missark, "She’s very proud of her straight legs now. She stands in front of the long mirror and says ‘I’m pretty.’ She’s looking forward to her mother seeing her."

Boswell was also pleased with how readily Missark was accepted by the members of his family’s church. She was also a hit at the Rotary and Shriners meetings he took her to. At Monday’s Rotary meeting, Missark was greeted a long line of well-wishers.

The project is funded by "volunteer donations," Boswell said. Benefit musical programs are also often held in St. Louis to raise money. A benefit featuring country music will be held on August 15 in Kinmundy. Donations have been received from across the country. The local Rotary Club was even able to find and send an x-ray machine to Belize to be used for the project.

To date, 220 children have been helped since 1978 as a result of this community generosity, according to Boswell. In addition to Missark, four other children are being housed in Mt. Vernon, Troy, and Swansea. The project now aids 10 to 12 children per year.

Boswell stressed that families interested in hosting a child do not have to be Rotary or Shriners members. "They just need to be caring people," he said. Potential hosts are screened by the project’s committee. Anyone interested in becoming a host or making a donation can contact Boswell.

"The love that’s given to these children by Shriners’ Hospital and those involved in the Rotary project is wonderful," Boswell said.