The Arc of Riverside County’s Walk and Roll and Disability Resource Fair saw people with disabilities, their family members and friends come together in Fairmount Park on Saturday, October 6th to celebrate our community’s diversity and promote inclusion, dignity and respect for those with special needs. With pledges still coming in, the event has been a success in its first year by many different measures.
One of those attending was Michele Villa of Riverside who has felt isolated since giving birth to Julian, her son with Down syndrome two years ago.
“It seems that our family has been on an island. When we came to My Play Club in Fairmount Park one month, it was great to see so many young families with children with various disabilities. Among other things, we shared stories and information about resources.” she said.
Michele found out about the Walk and Roll Fundraiser from a Facebook networking page called “Special Needs Community” and decided to help. In the weeks leading up to the event, Michele and her family raised just over one thousand dollars by getting pledges from many family and friends for her Walk and Roll team called “Syndrome of a Down.” Not only did her family and friends donate, eighteen of them were a part of her team and walked in the event. We are thankful for the help of Michele and her family and friends and many others who made this a successful event.
The event provided opportunities to affirm our community’s commitment to inclusion even at the earliest of ages, share resources and have fun. When the walk around Lake Evans ended, the several hundred attendees visited with Social Security Administration personnel, Trax Equestrian Center, a Disability Rights agency, Dr. Scott Allen of the UCR Medical School, Inland Empire Health Plan, Molina Healthcare, and representatives from Facebook communities on Special Needs, among others.
The event also featured The Arc of Riverside County board member Bud Luppino, who gave away a coupon for a free oil change at Bud’s Tire and Wheel to anyone stopping by his booth. Proceeds from the Walk and Roll will benefit The Arc of Riverside’s My Play Club and a summer camp for children with and without disabilities in Riverside Parks.
Children of all ages enjoyed free snow cones, face painting, balloon animals and participated in arts and crafts. Participants also enjoyed local live entertainment by Daniel Potts, a young drummer with a disability from Moreno Valley who drums with his feet, the local pop band, Volante, who recently opened at the Tabaco Lounge for Carlos Santana Jr., and the Salty Raisins, a up and coming local country rock band.
“I was happy to see so many families with children with disabilities attend the event and to realize that many of them are doing very well and even thriving. It was a great event and I hope to help out next year as well,” stated Michele.
Community Leaders Praise the Event and the Cause
Event moderator, Stan Morrison, Senior Vice President of Security Bank of California and board member of The Arc, said of the event, “I was excited to see this great community response to our event and to see so many agencies and friends support our effort to raise money to benefit children with disabilities.” Security Bank of California was a major donor to this cause. Over 30 organizations exhibited and Stan asked representatives from each of them to speak about their unique service and how they could help the families in attendance.
“With city officials like Ralph Nunez, the Riverside Director of Parks and Recreation, Rusty Bailey, Riverside City Councilman, and Sergio Diaz, Riverside City Chief of Police on hand, it demonstrated that our city truly cares about individuals with disabilities,” Stan remarked.
Parks Director Nunez said, “I believe our city’s partnership with The Arc of Riverside County has been instrumental in raising awareness of the universally accessible playground at Fairmount Park. Through this coordinated effort we have been able to increase the opportunity for children with disabilities to play and interact with other children at the park.”
According to The Arc of Riverside County’s Executive Director, Jim Stream, there is another reason the inclusion initiative is important. He believes it fits well with Riverside’s “Seizing Our Destiny” strategic plan for diversity. “If our city is to realize its goal of a truly inclusive community, we need to provide opportunities for children to learn how much they have in common and not allow the barrier of disability to be the one thing that results in segregation and exclusion that too often lasts a lifetime,” he said.