The Fall Festival for Children with Special Needs and Their Families is in its ninth year and going strong.
The 2019 event will be 2-4 p.m. Saturday at Central Texas Christian School, 4141 W. FM 93, Temple.
Over the years, organizers of the festival, mostly parents with special needs children, have brought on board like-minded individuals who have become advocates for the children and the fall festival.
Ken Riffel with Allumed Medical Supply has been a sponsor at the festival since its start.
“I’ve been involved with the special needs kids in this area for over 20 years,” Riffel said. “It’s not like selling someone a car; you’re taking care of their kid.”
Riffel’s job has allowed him to get to know the families and watch the children grow.
The fall festival provides the families with an opportunity to take their children to an event like every other child gets to enjoy this time of year, he said.
“It’s a good community event that’s been developed and we like to be involved with programs that serve our customers,” Riffel said.
Some children will outgrow the need for specialized equipment and that’s special to witness, he said.
“I’m very lucky to be able to do what I do,” Riffel said.
Families with special needs children, whether they are intellectually delayed or physically impaired, appreciate that their children can just be themselves at the fall festival without garnering stares or comments.
Dawn Sears and family have accompanied daughter Megan to the fall festival for years.
Megan is 12 but functions closer to age 6.
“I like that Megan can be a bouncing ball of joy, energy, excitement and enthusiasm at the festival and we don’t have to worry about making others feel awkward,” Sears said.
Megan has decided she wants to dress up for Halloween as Unikitty, a character in the Lego movie.
“She (Megan) always picks an obscure support character that few people have heard of,” Sears said. “It’s funny, she gravitates to not being the character that is the center of attention.”
Her affinity for second-tier cartoon character results in mom cobbling together a costume.
“Megan forces us to be very creative and rarely waivers from her initial decision,” Sears said.
Since the festival’s start, the American Legion Riders have sponsored bike-r-treats at the festival.
The riders arrive at the festival all together with an escort. This year, the riders will be escorted by a Temple fire truck, said Larry Beck, a member of the American Legion Riders. There are usually around 25 riders at the festival.
Upon arrival, the riders line up in the parking lot, set up next to their bikes and unload the candy they’ll be passing out to the youngsters.
If the revelers show a particular interest in a bike, they are typically invited to have a seat and get the feel of riding a motorcycle.
“Just to be able to put smiles on their faces and bring some joy into their lives makes it worth the time,” Beck said. “It means everything to us.”
There are always lots of fun activities that are appropriate for the special needs children, including a hay ride that is accessible to children in wheelchairs.
There will be a cake walk, pumpkin painting, bean bag tosses and more.
Even with less than ideal weather last year, close to 300 children attended the festival.
Though the festival focus is on providing activities for the special needs children, there will be activities for their siblings.
There is online registration for families and children this year, which will speed up the sign in process at the festival. Deadline to register is noon Wednesday at https://forms.gle/84rv5LktfgNPHgFv9.
For information, call Susie Marek at 254-933-7487, or email Susie.Marek@hoctilc.org.