For the third year in a row, Richard E. Cavazos Elementary School opened its doors to a special group of students for a night all their own.
Clad in leis, special-needs students from across the district enjoyed a luau-themed family night May 1. More than 200 students and parents feasted on hot dogs and participated in a number of sensory activities, including edible finger painting, sand discovery and an adaptive obstacle course.
A variety of community organizations and support groups provided information on their services for the special-needs community. Highlights included a visit from dog trainers with Sit Means Sit, who brought pups to demonstrate dog safety, a Hawaiian-themed photo booth and quality time with Iron Man, Minnie Mouse and H-E-B’s Buddy. The teachers took care to demonstrate activities parents would be able to try at home with their kids once they left, too.
As the mom of a special-needs child, Erin Bass found the night as rewarding for the families as it was for the students.
“I think the parents benefitted the most. It was comforting for them. ... We wanted to show them we are here for you,” Bass said. “It can be tough for parents, wondering how do I best support my child? It was encouraging for families to see (what) their kids can do.”
And the result for Killeen Independent School District students was even better — they felt even more special than they already do.
“These kids bring joy to anyone they come in contact with,” Bass said. “Everybody was so happy. It confirmed (to me) that it’s a need, to feel supported by their school.”
The school regularly hosts themed family nights, but Bass noticed a dearth of special-needs students attending and proposed Exceptional Child Night.
The annual event, run solely by volunteers, now has more help than ever, with 115 working together to make the evening run smoothly.
“It could not have been done without the help of everyone involved,” Bass said, naming aides, custodians, cafeteria staff, secretaries, admin and teachers from 18 campuses who assisted, along with the PTO. Special guests included 15 Killeen High School ROTC students and the KHS cheerleaders.
In Bass’ experience, people are always ready and willing to help the special needs population, for which she is so grateful.
“It’s amazing what a community of people can achieve,” she said.
The evening has slowly grown from initially serving only Cavazos and Mountain View students to now welcoming the entire district.
Bass is especially appreciative of the support of Dr. Lynn Young, executive director for Special Education and Randy Carder, coordinator for Special Education Operations, who “looked like they were having as much fun as the kids,” she said, along with the encouragement of Cavazos Principal Joseph Gullekson.