Lee's Summit Journal

The aim of Special Needs Day in Lee’s Summit: bring awareness to community

Alexandria Baumgart, 6, pets a pony from Side Track Ranch at Special Needs Day in downtown Lee’s Summit Saturday afternoon.
Alexandria Baumgart, 6, pets a pony from Side Track Ranch at Special Needs Day in downtown Lee’s Summit Saturday afternoon. Special to the Journal

After the bunnies stopped hopping in the Easter parade Saturday morning, it was time for another event in downtown Lee’s Summit: Special Needs Day. It’s the second year the city has hosted the gathering.

More than 20 organizations and businesses gathered Saturday at the VFW building, both to highlight services that are available and to try to help people in the community feel more comfortable interacting with those who have special needs.

“The more they know about special needs, the more they won’t be afraid of people with special needs,” said Terri Pigue, treasurer of Autism Outreach Fellowship. “I think they get a lot of acceptance at church, but just out in the general community, they don’t have that kind of acceptance.”

Although Autism Outreach Fellowship sponsored the event, the information available at the fair was about services and programs that applied to many different kinds of needs and disabilities.

One organization at the event was the Boy Scouts, represented by Troop 229 from Independence.

“We try to make sure the supports the Scouts might need are in place,” said Peggy Johnson, a leader in the troop.

Johnson said that people have a disability can file for an extension for extra time to complete the coveted Eagle Scout rank, normally required to be finished by a Scout’s 18th birthday.

Other organizations ranged from those that provide home aides or assistance dogs to others, like All About Autism, that just wanted to distribute information.

Lee’s Summit Police Officer Clarinda Woods was there to show the special-needs community “they don’t have to be scared of the police when they see an officer.”

Stacey Goodwin of Overland Park was selling children’s books she writes, including one about her son, who she said is on the autism spectrum. The book details how he feels when he’s having a behavioral meltdown.

“It helps to explain my son to people and makes him feel a little less alone,” Goodwin said.

Lea Klepees, of Belton, was at the event with her employer, The Whole Person. She feels strongly about helping people see past disabilities.

“People with disabilities are capable of way more than people think. It just takes allowing people with disabilities to be included in the community, so people see it’s possible,” Klepees said. “Sometimes I think I might be the only person with a disability that people see.”

In addition to information booths, there was a face-painting station, an area outside to pet ponies and blow bubbles, a cornhole game and many of the booths had small toys.

Pamela Crossley of Lee’s Summit said the event was just right for her grandson.

“They’ve got enough tables that it’s not overwhelming, and there are enough sensory things” to keep him engaged, Crossley said.

“He’s found a lot he’s enjoying doing.’