Bubble Fun

Spark begins Q2 ’24 with a successful Spring Fling

Spring Fling bubbles over with fun!

The bubble machine never fails to Spark wonder!

Fun filled the Ashley Nicole Dream Playground at Caswell Park on April 13. Young attendees were mesmerized by the bubble machine that greeted them as they checked in. Children of all abilities and their families went “fishing,” played “Bunny Bowl,” hunted eggs, got their faces (and arms) painted, enjoyed a story from author Gary Harmon, joined the Sunshine Ambassadors in singing and dancing, and munched on pizza and snacks. The weather was perfect, and every child received a goodie bag.

Spark Volunteer Coordinator Julie Ownby was so happy with the response families had to our festive Toy Tech in December that she suggested to Executive Director Mary Thom Adams that we organize a similar event in the spring and (as we do at Toy Tech) give a free, switch-adapted toy to the kids with disabilities who attended. Julie’s brainchild turned out to be a smashing success!

Spark thanks all the wonderful volunteers, including Girl Scouts from Troops 20227, 22018 and 20034, a friendly group of CarMax employees, “the Gresham girls,” Julie’s party-planning team and face painter Mark Hammerick, and entertainers Gary Harmon, the Sunshine Ambassadors and the Easter Bunny. We also are grateful to Food City (Clinton Highway), Little Caesar’s (Clinton Highway), Party City (Broadway), Sam’s Club (Knoxville Center) and Target (Turkey Creek) for their generous donations and discounts.

Congratulations, Julie! We’ll soon have news about her next big Spark party for kids and families around Halloween.



StanleyStanley says ‘so long, farewell’

Longtime Assistant Director Stanley E. Taylor Jr. is retiring from Spark effective April 30, 2024.

His decision came as a surprise to his co-workers, even though we celebrated his 65th birthday in March.

Stanley, a Knoxville native, joined Spark in 2018 and has been an anchor through Spark’s evolving journey, including the pandemic years. His even-keeled personality has been a much-appreciated asset as he has managed day-to-day operations, supervised and monitored programs and staff, and liaised with community partners and funders.

He met Mary Thom Adams when he was director of leadership development for the Knoxville Leadership Foundation and she was a consultant for the organization. They stayed in touch as she went on to become the executive director of Spark and invited him to join her team.

“After lengthy discussions with Mary Thom, what appealed to me was both working with the disability community and learning about assistive technology – which I’d never done either of before – and working with the creative staff,” says Stanley. He has enjoyed his time here but decided it was time to step down.

“During a season of reflecting as I was approaching 65, I came to the conclusion that it was time for a change,” he says.

Stanley earned his bachelor of science degree in social welfare from East Tennessee State University in 1983 and his master of science in social work from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 1985. He attended Harvard Law School’s Negotiation Workshop through its Program of Instruction for Lawyers in 2003.

He is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves, Medical Services Corps, and served from 1983 to 1991.

Stanley’s pre-Spark career included serving as chief operations officer for the Tennessee Valley Coalition for the Homeless; director of leadership development for the Knoxville Leadership Foundation; and director of client services for Knox Area Rescue Ministries. He even worked at the legendary Lakeshore Mental Health Institute for two years in the 1980s.

He has been an adjunct instructor at Johnson University since January 2013, teaching undergraduate junior-level classes in psychology.

“I will continue teaching, but I want to free up time for other interests.” Stanley has studied photography for decades.

“My wife and I spend a lot of time in the Smokies,” he says. “I want to combine my love of nature with my photography.”


Be a Vol – for Spark!

Do you like volunteering? Do you love Spark? Spark has a huge heart but a small staff, and we welcome any time and talent you wish to contribute. It could as simple as answering the telephone for a couple of hours a week or as advanced as helping to repair durable medical devices. Do you have a knack for electronics, engineering or computers? Spark can plug you in to a variety of necessary tasks. Call Mary Thom Adams at 865-219-0130 or email Spark.ETTAC@gmail.com for more information.

Spark also appreciates monetary donations online at www.SparkTN.org. Don’t forget our GoFundMe campaign, https://www.GoFundMe.com/f/2024-it-only-takes-a-spark. Thank you!