Pediatric Occupational Therapist Marge Cheesman will be the recipient of Ozarks Technical Community College’s 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award. Formally presented each year at commencement, the award honors OTC alumni who have distinguished themselves for their career accomplishments and community service. With the college’s 2020 commencement ceremony canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cheesman will accept her award in a virtual event streamed to Facebook and YouTube on Wednesday, Aug. 19 at 6 p.m.
Cheesman, a native of west-central Illinois, worked as a medical assistant for nearly two decades before earning her certification as a therapeutic riding instructor for individuals with disabilities in 2004. Helping clients through her work inspired Cheesman to pursue a degree in occupational therapy, and she enrolled in OTC’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program in 2006. Upon graduation, she attended Belmont University’s bridge program in Nashville, Tennessee to earn her master’s degree in the field.
Following the completion of her studies at OTC, Cheesman started a nonprofit organization called Dynamic Strides Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy. With her own barn and horses, Cheesman provided occupational therapy using hippotherapy (horseback riding as a therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment tool) for children with special needs. She also trained many volunteers to support her hippotherapy practice.
Through her work, Cheesman changed countless lives including the lives of non-verbal children who may have expressed joy for the first time or said their first words on the back of a horse. She also worked with children who had developmental delays or physical disabilities by helping them improve their core-strength, balance or visual skills.
Because of Missouri’s volatile weather conditions, Cheesman found it difficult to run consistent therapy sessions in her barn. Therefore, in an effort to expand her practice and serve individuals through hippotherapy year-round, Cheesman co-founded Dynamic Strides Therapy in 2016. The new facility boasted an indoor, climate-controlled arena and a therapy clinic with a fully-equipped sensory gym.
Earlier this year, Cheesman accepted a position as a pediatric occupational therapist at Kaleidoscope Academy and Clinic in Joplin, Missouri. She works with children who have special needs using effective, evidence-based therapy.
View past recipients of OTC’s Distinguished Alumni Award here.