Ozark Center and Joplin Y’s Thrive Program helps tornado survivors heal emotional wounds

In the two years since the Joplin tornado, Freeman’s Ozark Center and the Joplin Family YMCA have helped victims heal emotional wounds through the “Thrive Program”.

Through the Thrive program participants get a free temporary membership to the Y and meet with Ozark Center counselors. It aims to help build the mental and physical health of tornado survivors facing struggles since the tornado.

Crystal Buckner and her three year old son, George, are participants in the program.

“My son was so scared he didn’t even want to bond with me, he didn’t want to be around anybody,” says Crystal. “He was off in his own little world and wouldn’t talk or anything, and I didn’t know how to deal with that. I just wanted to hold and cry with him and tell him it was all ok. He didn’t understand. He didn’t have his room anymore and when we went to our house and saw the destruction I didn’t know how much of a tragedy it would be on him, you know, but it was.”

It was tough on Crystal too.

“We just wanted to give them a connection, a hope,” says Ozark Center counselor Camille Midcap. “We could identify their barriers, things that could be holding them back. If we could help them with a plan of action, if we could encourage them to recognize stressors, things that might be holding them back from moving forward then they would able to see small progression and inspire them to keep going and not quit.”

Crystal says the program has encouraged her to think more positively and engage in more positive activities whether it’s for her or her son.

“Everything is coming to where I feel more confident that I can do anything,” says Crystal. “We started swimming since he was a baby, so that’s something he looks forward to. He calls it ‘going to the beach’ so we are going to the beach and going swimming and that’s something I can encourage him. ‘Okay, George, let’s get up, let’s take a shower and go to the beach today’ and he will do everything right.”

And that’s confidence she says will help her find the strength to provide a stable successful future for her family.

Since our interview with Crystal we’ve learned that the Joplin Family Y has offered her a year membership. She is currently fixing up an old home left to her by a family member and is looking for a job.