What once started as just an idea to help kids in the Tri-State Area has blossomed into a quickly growing non-profit organization.
Group founder Corey Samuels said the group began with just playing sports in the backyard with friends, but has grown much faster than he ever thought possible.
“It got bigger than my backyard could handle and I said ‘let’s grow this thing.’ I realized that people around this town have really good hearts, and they had really good intentions,” Samuels said. “Ha, it kind of got out of my control.”
The inspiration came from wanting to help his sons, who both have autism, be included in activities, but has become about much more than just that.
“The primary mission is special needs, but not we try to help anyone we can help,” Samuels said.
Mancountry is now in 39 different countries on their Facebook page and many different people, even celebrities, have reached out to Samuels.
Some have even asked about starting up their own Mancountry groups, something that truly excites Samuels.
“I never thought this would happen, I thought it’d be me and my eight friends playing whiffleball with my kids for the next five years. I thought that’s what we’d be doing, and I was good with that, but I’m good with this too,” Samuels said.
With their work with special needs children, Mancountry has done some partnerships with K-Play.
These include creating a tee-ball league in last year and also hosting a special needs basketball league recently.
Samuels said the league was very successful and the kids had a great time learning about the game.
“They came out, they had fun, they got to figure out how the court works, how the game works,” Samuels said.
Other events have included bringing actor and comedian Dustin Diamond and former WWE wrestlers to town for fundraisers.
The group also recently hired its first intern, Layne Daskalos, who said he is very excited to work with the program.
“I appreciate the stuff Corey does for the community and the impact it brings to Keokuk,” Daskalos said.
Actor Mark Price will be coming into town on Feb. 1 and WWE stars Animal, Jake the Snake and Billy Gunn, among others, will also be making appearances in the near future.
Samuels said they have also spoken to former American Idol contestants and sports celebrities about coming to Keokuk as well.
“It’s kind of wide open right now, but we have some things nailed down,” Samuels said.
Mancountry is currently hosting a grocery giveaway of $500 on their Facebook page and also plans to help out with K-Play’s holiday events coming up in the future.
The biggest project in the works currently, however, is the start of a community garden for the special needs rooms in town.
“They can teach the kids how to plant the produce, how to pick the produce, how to do all that stuff. And that’s kind of what my dream is, how else can we give back to those rooms?” Samuels said.
Mancountry is always looking for new ideas and for people to get involved. Samuels said the best way to reach out is through either his or Mancountry’s Facebook pages.
Hear the full interview with Samuels and Daskalos on the Weekend Radio Recap at 7 AM on Z93 and 8 AM and 1 PM on 1310 KOKX.