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R.A.I.S.E. Festival puts spotlight on special needs
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Hudson Oliveira bowls from a wheelchair in an experience meant to teach R.A.I.S.E. Festival attendees about the struggles that special needs students face. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

As volunteers around the city got their hands dirty participating in Love Turlock, another community event gave back to the community in a different way. The third annual R.A.I.S.E. Festival was held in conjunction with the city-wide service program Saturday at the fairgrounds, raising awareness for children with special needs and providing services for their families.


Hosted by the Turlock Unified School District Special Education Department, the R.A.I.S.E., or Raising Awareness through Inspiration, Support, and Education, Festival was developed in 2015 to provide resources to community families who have a child with special needs, from social services agencies to after school programs. A multitude of booths were set up in the fairgrounds lawn by organizations like Covenant Care at Home and Aspiranet, addressing the multiple facets of care a family may need, and others helped those in attendance find resources for helpful services like canine companions and family counseling.


“It’s a good way to raise awareness for folks, but also our way to share and give back to families,” said TUSD Director of Special Education Jeff Santos. “It’s sort of a one-stop shop where they can come and find all of these resources available.”


Dorenda Esparza of Turlock brought her daughter to the festival, where she and other children in attendance were treated to face painting and live music from a local band, Makin’ Noise, and took part in activities that helped them to understand what struggles children with special needs go through, such as bowling from a wheelchair.


Esparza originally came to the event in search of just “something to do,” she said, but was inspired when she learned the purpose of the festival.


“That means a lot to me, because education is very important for everyone,” she said.