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Jefferson Hills Community Day to focus on those with special needs

| Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011

The first Jefferson Hills Community Awareness Day, scheduled for 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Floreffe Volunteer Fire Company hall at 1540 State St., will include food, games and information about autism, developmental problems and mental disorders.

Activities include games for children. Vendors from groups and agencies dedicated to families with special needs will attend, said Melissa Steffey, a recreation board member.

"It's important to have a fun time and present opportunities to families," Steffey said. "To have something like this, it's amazing."

Between 10 and 12 vendors will offer resources and educational information about child care, education and financial help. Steffey said some vendors will offer part-time employment options for caregivers of special needs children, because those caregivers have little opportunity to make money.

"Typically, they're full-time caregivers," Steffey said.

Children will be able to walk a red carpet during a photo shoot by Jamie Virgin Photography from 2 to 5 p.m. Photos will be available by e-mail for free.

"They see it on TV all the time, and now they can do it," Steffey said.

Also, Liberty Mutual will sponsor a bike safety course for children who bring their bikes and safety equipment. The course is designed to make sure safety equipment is up-to-date, and that the children can read road signs, Steffey said.

Community Awareness Day started as an alternative to a Community Day.

Because of a lack of volunteers for Community Day and more interest in the Jefferson Hills Public Library's fall festival, borough council members said this spring that there would be no Community Day this year.

In June, Nick Bova and Steffey, both of Northwood Reality, spoke before council to see whether they could sponsor a citizens' community day. Steffey said there wasn't enough time to plan a Community Day, so the two joined the recreation board to help plan other events.

At the same time, Councilwoman Vickie Hatfield-Ielase, who also serves on the recreation board, had an idea to host an event to highlight a particular cause. Two of Hatfield-Ielase's children have special needs, so she thought an event that educates parents of special needs children would be beneficial, she said.

"I live with it daily," Hatfield-Ielase said. "It's their day to shine."

The recreation board decided an event highlighting developmental disorders would benefit the community.

"Vickie did a great job with this idea," Steffey said. "It's amazing how much feedback and word of mouth has spread it."

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