Employee Heartbeat – Never Quit Playing

Margaret Kierl

At Bethany Children’s Health Center, our employees truly are the heartbeat that drives the organization. Every day, through the care and service they provide, they live our mission of maximizing the potential of every child and exemplify our core values of compassion, integrity, excellence, service and stewardship. We hope you enjoy getting to know our amazing employees through our Heartbeat profiles.

Recreation Therapist Margaret Kierl’s passion to see children with disabilities gain confidence and experience the joy of adaptive sports is unmatched.

Oklahoma City native and certified Recreation Therapist, Margaret Kierl, always knew she wanted to work with kids and sports. In high school, Margaret thought she’d go into physical therapy and work with patients with sports injuries, but was introduced to recreation therapy in college.  When Margaret coached the Salina Celtics Special Olympics basketball team, she knew her calling was working with kids and adaptive sports.

Since then, her passion for adaptive sports has helped both children and adults with disabilities experience the joy, excitement and personal growth that sports offer. Margaret has been the Program Director and a board member for the Oklahoma Adaptive Sports Association for almost 25 years.

“I was the wheelchair basketball coach for the Prep and Varsity teams for 25 years,” Margaret says, “but I stepped away this year to work on a project to raise funds to build a building for children, adults and veterans that is completely accessible for the physically disabled.”

Margaret also plays a key role in the Endeavor Games, which started at University of Central Oklahoma in 2000 and exists to create competitive, fun, safe and high-quality sport competitions for athletes with physical disabilities. The Endeavor Games aspire to serve the needs of athletes whether they participate for health, recreation, or dream of being a Paralympian.

Margaret oversees the Wounded Warriors basketball clinic and wheelchair basketball 3×3 tournament for the Endeavor Games each year, and is a track official for the Endeavor Games Track & Field event.

Luckily for Bethany Children’s Health Center, Margaret’s nephew worked at the hospital and knew there was a need for recreation therapy and adaptive sports activities for the patients here. Margaret started at Bethany Children’s in 2019 and says, “The most rewarding part of my job is seeing how the kids grow and gain confidence in what they are doing, and that they are willing to try new things. I love the smiles on the kiddos’ faces when they participate in activities.”

The completion of the Adaptive Recreation and Fine Arts Center, as well as Miracle Stadium have Margaret dreaming of ways to get the most benefit from these amazing facilities.

“I would love to see camps and clinics all day with both inpatient and outpatient kids participating in the activities,” she admits. “It would be great to start softball and baseball miracle league programs and show movies outdoors on the ballfield for the children and their families.”

These are just a few of Margaret’s many creative ideas for keeping kids engaged and active through recreation therapy and adaptive sports at the hospital.

Understanding Margaret’s passion for adaptive sports and the power of play as therapy for children, it’s no surprise that this saying from Oliver Wendell Holmes is one of her favorites: “We do not quit playing because we grow old, we grow old because we quit playing”.


Something you might not know: “I was chosen along with five other coaches from the US to be a guest coach for the 2006 Paralympic Games and was able to sit on the bench for the Sled Hockey Games and watch several other events.”

First Job: “I was 12 years old, and I worked at Virginia Dairy Queen with my four sisters.”

Favorite Ways to Spend Free Time: “I love to garden, both flowers and veggies. I love being outdoors, reading a book, sitting by the lake listening to the waves, riding wave runners or on a boat.  I love to arrange flowers in vases. Right now, in my free time I work on the house that I just bought.”

Favorite Movie: “Secondhand Lions”

Favorite Sports Teams: College -Notre Dame (any sport), Pro Baseball – St. Louis Cardinals, Football – KC Chiefs, Basketball – OKC Thunder

Dream Weekend:  On the beach or in the mountains in Lake Tahoe.

From the Bucket List: Go back to Alaska and see the Northern Lights.

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