Photo courtesy of Friends of Children with Special Needs
On September 25, the City of Fremont held this year’s Disability Resource Festival in the Downtown Event Center to provide the disabled community with the opportunity to connect with first responders and view helpful resources that improve their quality of life. Some of the attractions at the event included demonstrations from the Fremont Fire and Police Departments as well as more than 15 disability awareness booths spread across the venue.
The event kicked off at 10 a.m. with an opening speech from Fremont Mayor Lily Mei, who discussed the daily hurdles of having a disability. Many of the people in the crowd were brought to tears by her moving oration. Following Mei’s speech, the Dream Achievers Band, an ensemble of musicians with autism, performed a diverse mix of songs, spurring the audience to dance to the upbeat rhythms. Consisting of saxophonist Lawrence Wang, pianist Alice Jen, and guitarist Gregory Hebert, the band works to inspire disabled people to pursue their passions. As the band’s half-hour long performance came to an end, the crowd dispersed across the venue to explore the many booths.
One of the booths with the largest crowd was Friends of Children with Special Needs (FCSN). As constant members of the Disability Resource Festival over the years, the volunteers at the FCSN booth hosted various games related to their goal of assisting kids with disabilities, from a wheel of fortune, filled with tasks such as naming the three most common disabilities among children, to a cornhole toss board, which offered the opportunity to win toys and candy. “I hope that with this event, Friends of Children with Special Needs is really able to reach out, expand its horizons, and help many more children that suffer with disabilities,” FCSN Member Nancy Nishida said.
Among the resource booths, the Fremont Fire Department had also parked a fire truck for fairgoers to explore, with resident firefighter John Anderson giving tours of the interior. At the Fremont Police Department booth, officers spoke about their job as first responders, as well as their own experiences with disabilities. “As first responders, we really serve to make everyone in the city feel safe more than anything,” police officer James Black said.
Another highlight of the fair included speeches from notable Bay Area autism advocates. Jill Escher, autism research philanthropist and head of the Escher Fund for Autism, spoke about her experiences as the mom of two children with nonverbal autism. She also described the research her organization undertakes to improve conditions for those with disabilities, emphasizing the importance of disability awareness. Stephen Prutsman, co-founder of the nonprofit Autism Fun Bay Area, narrated his journey in creating musical opportunities for children with disabilities. Prutsman’s organization plans a series of field trips to concerts and musical events every year, including performances by Prutsman himself, who is a classical and jazz musician. The speakers’ words sparked feelings of empathy throughout the audience, emphasizing the bonds of mutual support within the disability community.
As the event drew to a close, expanding many new visitors’ knowledge regarding disability awareness and providing useful resources to help the fight, the Dream Achievers Band performed one last song as a departing anthem for all of the people at the event. “It’s really awesome watching how many people of different backgrounds and different paths of life this event brings together, simply to spread the message of disability awareness,” Nishida said.