Joplin, MO — Healthy Joplin invites the community to join the kickoff for their Walking Groups Initiative on Saturday, April 2 at Mercy Park’s Shelter 1, located on the south side of the pond. In case of inclement weather, the event will move to the JCPenney’s Court at the Northpark Mall.

Festivities will begin at 9:00 am with a ribbon cutting and door prizes, which will be given away to those who have registered here. This event will allow fellow walkers to connect while giving those who are interested in joining a group a chance to learn about the program and its benefits.
The Joplin Walking Groups Initiative currently has seven walking groups. Anyone is welcome to join the group of their choice:

Freeman Wellness Walkers, led by Rhonda Bitticks
Neosho Community Wellness Walkers, led by Kayla Carter and Jennifer Smith
Wow City Walkers Downtown, led by Leigh Kelley
Wow City Walkers Landreth Park, led by Suzan Morang
• Walk with Ease with Freeman Advantage, led by Jamie Gilmore
Mercy Bari Bunch, led by Jennifer Mesiter

Joining one of these groups and walking for just 30 minutes a day can help control blood sugar, reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent osteoporosis, boost the immune system, control weight, improve circulation and breathing, combat depression, and manage arthritis pain. And walking with a group keeps individual accountable and ensures that everyone feels safe.

To learn more about Healthy Joplin, visit or visit their Facebook page. For more information on the Joplin Walking Groups Initiative, please contact

Healthy Joplin is a collaborative effort of local health agencies, individuals, and businesses passionate about improving the wellbeing of our community.

JOPLIN, Mo. – “Why can’t you just quit?” This question is routinely asked in families where a person struggles with some form of addiction. Ozark Center, an entity of Freeman Health System, now offers Innovative Solutions, an interactive presentation for anyone who wants to better understand the struggle of addiction and other behavioral issues.

“Ozark Center provides a myriad of services with highly trained professionals in all aspects of behavioral healthcare for our community, and we want to provide a monthly opportunity to share information about our available services through Innovative Solutions,” said Ozark Center Chief Clinical Officer Del Camp. “Despite the comprehensive nature and size of our organization, recovery and support for those experiencing mental health challenges truly lies within our community.”

This new monthly series empowers our community to support those we know who live with mental health or substance use issues. The March topic is “Why Can’t You Just Quit?”: Understanding Addition for Those Who Are Not Addicted.

“The purpose of the series is to equip the community with the tools necessary to support their friends, families and coworkers who are in recovery,” said Ozark Center New Directions Clinical Director Spence Ellis. “We also want to be sure to allow for questions during these interactive presentations. Our first event titled ‘Why Can’t You Just Quit’ speaks to the families whose loved ones continue addictive behavior choices despite negative consequences. In addition, it will also offer practical options for family members struggling with how to help them. We’ll also discuss some issues around opioid use disorder and provide some education for how to intervene in the event of an overdose.”

The event is facilitated by trained addiction professionals at New Directions. Discussions are suitable for those 18 and over, and it is ideal for families impacted by addiction. This month’s Innovative Solutions session will take place from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm on Thursday, March 24, at Ozark Center Hope Spring at 3901 E. 32nd Street. The ongoing series of sessions will give the community more opportunities to discuss mental health and substance use issues.

“No organization is large enough to adequately support the full range of needs of those recovering from addiction or mental health disorders,” said Camp. “Innovative Solutions aims to provide information about topics including addiction, suicide prevention, overdose response, eating disorders, older adults, autism, veterans and parenting.”

Future Innovative Solutions sessions are scheduled addressing the following topics:

Veterans – May 2022 at Hope Spring
Eating Disorders – June 2022 at Hope Spring
Parenting – July 2022 at Will’s Place
Older Adults – August 2022 at Hope Spring
Addiction – September 2022 at Hope Spring
Autism – October 2022 at Leffen Center
Veterans – November 2022 at Hope Spring
Eating Disorders – December 2022 at Hope Spring
Parenting – January 2023 at Will’s Place
Older Adults – February 2023 at Hope Spring

Dates are to be determined but listing updates can be found at


About Freeman Health System

Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2022, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2021. With more than 320 physicians on staff representing more than 90 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit

About Ozark Center

Ozark Center is based in Joplin, Missouri and has been an entity of Freeman Health System since 1996. It has been providing comprehensive behavioral health services to children, adults, and families since 1965 in an area that includes more than 450,000 residents from the Four States. Ozark Center continually looks for innovative ways to address the behavioral health needs o

One person giving a pint of blood can save as many as three lives. In fact, someone just like you donated the blood Sid McConnell needed to recover from a quadruple bypass, giving him the chance to have more adventures with his daughters.

Currently blood usage is up while donations are down due to cancelled blood drives. Freeman Health System hopes to help by holding a blood drive with Community Blood Center of the Ozarks (CBCO) on Tuesday, March 22.

CBCO is the sole provider of blood and plasma products to Freeman, as well as more than 44 other hospitals in its 40-county service area. Many patients depend on blood transfusions, and Freeman Health System uses more than 500 pints of blood each month.

Giving blood is a safe, easy way to ensure our friends, family and neighbors will have the lifesaving blood they need. Donors 17 or older who weigh at least 110 pounds and have not given blood in the past eight weeks are encouraged to participate. Donors will receive a free quarter-zip pullover while supplies last.

Please eat well and drink plenty of water before your appointment. Photo identification is required. CBCO follows current CDC guidelines regarding masks. CBCO follows current CDC guidelines regarding masks.

Appointments are strongly encouraged to manage donor flow. To schedule your appointment, call 417.227.5006 or you can go to

What: Freeman Blood Drive

When: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Tuesday, March 22

Where: Freeman Hospital West, Conference Rooms 1W – 4W

Joplin, Mo, — Active Lifestyle Events, ALE, a 501(c)3 organization devoted to promoting health and fitness in our community, presented a check to representatives of Healthy Joplin on Wednesday, March 16th at 12:30 p.m. The donation was funded by proceeds from the 2021 Joplin Memorial Runs.

Healthy Joplin is a collaborative workgroup created through a partnership between One Joplin and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. The workgroup is focused on Health and Wellness initiatives in the Joplin Community and consists of several teams, which include Walking Groups,, Workplace Wellness, and Healthy Kids. The donation will be used to paint professionally created stencil designs on sidewalks throughout the Joplin community including parks and walking trails.

The Joplin Memorial Run’s tag line is “Run, Remember, Rebuild”. The race is dedicated to remembering those lost in the EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin on May 22nd, 2011 and to supporting rebuilding efforts. Through the event, ALE has given over $200,000 to organizations such as Bright Futures, The United Way of SWMO, Rebuild Joplin, the Bill and Virginia Leffen Center for Autism, and Stained Glass Theatre.


Photos provided by Christina Williams

For many families, getting to and from school can be a hassle. But for some students at Cecil Floyd Elementary School, their morning and afternoon commutes are the best parts of the day. These students bike to and from school throughout the week as part of a group called the Bike Bus, which is organized by Joplin City Council Member Christina Williams.  

“The Bike Bus is what I call our group of kids who ride to and from school together,” she explains. “Instead of riding to school in a car or a bus, we choose to get active and ride bikes.” 

The concept has roots in Williams’ own love of cycling, which she shares with her two children. The Bike Bus began after she invited her neighbors to join her and her family as they rode to and from school.  

“Riding to school is something I’ve done with my son Greyson since his first day,” she explains. “This year, my daughter Cadee started kindergarten and I figured we might as well invite the neighborhood to join. I checked with some of the moms, and they were all excited about the idea.”  

The Bike Bus took its inaugural ride on the fourth day of the 20212022 school year, and since then, the group has biked to and from school each week. Every weekend, Williams checks the weather forecast as well as her availability to decide which days to ride and then coordinates with other parents. Some weeks, the group can only meet a few times. 

“But the best weeks are when we get to ride every day,” she says.  

Under Williams’ supervision, they learn about biking safety and communicating while riding as they exercise, build confidence, and make friends with other students. As a group, they are more visible to drivers, and Williams adds that parents are more willing to let their kids bike to school when another adult can ride alongside them and ensure that everyone arrives safely.  

The Bike Bus currently has nine participants, but they are hoping to recruit more students as the school year progresses. They even expanded to include students who attend a nearby private school by organizing six-mile group rides on Sunday afternoons when the weather is good.  

However, Williams would like to see the idea spread beyond her neighborhood and throughout the Joplin school district. She hopes other parents will hear about the Bike Bus and, in turn, be inspired to start their own biking or walking groups. In fact, she would like to hold an event this spring to introduce the concept to other families so they can organize their own groups.  

“Unfortunately, it won’t work for every household or in every neighborhood,” she concedes, “but I’m happy to help anyone who is interested to plan a safe route and get started.”  

Williams encourages interested parents to research similar initiatives such as,, and because they proved to be helpful resources when she started the Bike Bus. 

“Parents can check out the websites or reach out to me personally,” she says. “Since there isn’t an official program or club to join, anyone is free to craft a route to school however works best for them — make it yours!” 

Williams hopes that anyone involved, whether they participate in the Bike Bus or create a group of their own, will see the benefits of the program impact the rest of their lives. 

“I hope this experience is one they will cherish and that they will become lifetime riders,” she concludes.