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NEWS | Oct. 19, 2012

JBSA resource fair a success for military families with special needs

By Cheryl Harrison JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Warfighter and Family Readiness Marketing

The Joint Base San Antonio Exceptional Family Member Program joined forces with Morgan's Wonderland to hold the third annual Resource Fair and Child Find Event Oct. 13, with more than 275 family members, volunteers and vendors taking part.

The purpose of the fair was to put families with special needs members in touch with the numerous resources that specifically support individuals with disabilities.

One resource offered this year was Child Find, which was an opportunity for families to have their children assessed to determine if there was a special need or concern with normal development, speech and/or physical concerns.

The program is geared for children up to three years of age, with a behavior emphasis from three to five years of age.

There were also more than 40 booths lining the Morgan's Wonderland Event Center offering childcare placement, tuition assistance, counseling, respite care and special classes for families with special needs individuals.

"Due to the success of the previous resource fair events at Morgan's Wonderland, we are pleased to offer this wonderful opportunity for military families and EFMP families here in the area," said Air Force Col. Christine M. Erlewine, commander, 902d Mission Support Group, who opened the event.

"This is an opportunity to be educated by resources from Joint Base San Antonio and those out in the community."

Families were able to connect with some much-needed support, while parents and children alike were entertained by local talent.

The 323rd Army Band "Fort Sam's Own" provided music for more than an hour. Following the band, a special young lady was introduced.

Sierra Cecil, a local 15 year old, having experienced her own disabilities from birth, took the stage to demonstrate the gifts she has developed regardless of missing limbs.

Opening with the Patsy Cline favorite "Crazy," Cecil captivated the attendees. Cecil performed for more than an hour, ending her performance with her latest acquired talent, the guitar.

Demonstrating other skills was the Kinetic Kids gymnastic group. The audience enjoyed the gymnasts' performances on the parallel bars, balance beams, vault and floor.

Kinetic Kids offers year-round, comprehensive group programs for children with special needs with physical and cognitive disabilities. Their gymnastic program is for children who are able to walk independently or with an assistive device, such as a walker or crutches.

Besides being entertained inside the event center, families were able to visit the park.

Morgan's Wonderland is a play area specifically designed for children and adults with special needs.

With the cooler temperatures that day, the park proved to be the perfect site for learning and playing for the families who attended the event. With the specially equipped rides for special needs children including wheelchairs, everyone had a grand day.

"The fair went very well," said Melissa Reyes, EFMP manager for JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. "Lots of vendors were available, and 80 percent of the day's vendors were new to the annual fair, offering even more variety of resources to families in the San Antonio area."