CHAMPS Achievers is a nonprofit martial arts dojo dedicated to supporting the wellbeing of youth and adults with special needs. Through the use of adaptive American Karate and other martial arts forms, instructors and role models encourage students to build on their strengths and focus on their abilities. The motto that creates the acronym CHAMPS encapsulates the organizational mission: "Challenges handled and mastered with perseverance and spunk". Students are awarded belts as they master martial arts skills and badges and patches as they achieve life skills.
In addition to martial arts training, CHAMPS Achievers classes include occupational therapy components with KU occupational therapy students and faculty. During the spring 2016 semester, students in OCTH 422/482 work with two classes of CHAMPS students on Monday nights, guiding participation in self-defense and other physical activities, and supporting positive social experiences. More experienced CHAMPS students have the opportunity to help teach the OT students martial arts skills. By guiding and learning from CHAMPS students, the OT students are able to appreciate of the varied psychosocial factors that affect occupational performance and the variety of strategies that can be used.
Helen Dugan, founder and director of CHAMPS Achievers, said of working with the KU students, “I have been impressed with their giving spirit and diligence in improving the lives of their students. Do they realize the difference they are making? Probably not! But their special needs students do!"