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Rexburg first responders hold 10th annual special needs picnic

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REXBURG — For Amy Elison, one of the biggest fears is seeing what could happen if her 9-year-old special needs son, Isaiah, got lost or was in an emergency and she couldn’t help him.

She felt a little bit better Wednesday when she saw Isaiah get excited to see Rexburg police officers and firefighters and have a lunch with them at their 10th annual special needs luncheon.

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Isaiah and Amy Elison with their family posing with a Rexburg Police Officer after a tour of his police car | Silas Wright, EastIdahoNews.com

First responders from the departments organized the lunch for those in the community with special needs. The event is one that is loved by both the responders, and the community, but also serves a very important purpose, according to Lt. Colin Erickson.

“What we do is invite all special needs in the community to come out and be connected with the first responders, with the police and fire, to get to know us a little bit better and be more comfortable around us,” Erickson told EastIdahoNews.com. “So when they see us on an emergency situation, they’re comfortable reaching out and saying, ‘We need help’.”

The tradition started 10 years ago and has gone every year except during the 2020 COVID pandemic. Still, within the last few years, the police department has seen the events as being very big in the lives of those with special needs and their families.

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The picnic provided food, along with tours of police cars and fire trucks, allowing some of the guests to turn on sirens, talk into speakers and even spray the water hose from the truck. Rides in carts and Segways were provided, along with the chance to meet multiple men and women in uniform.

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For people like Elison, there is just nothing not to love.

“We have come every year and love it so much,” she said. “It’s just a great opportunity to be with our first responders and tell them thank you for all they do in our community and also for my son to get to know who the helpers are in case he’s ever lost or needs help.”

Elison talked about how people with special needs are often known to wander and can easily become lost. She has had to have multiple conversations with her son on what to do when he needs to find mom. Their family has had to call 911 a couple of times in the past in scary situations, and she is grateful for the chance to let Isaiah have fun with the first responders and know they are there to help.

“This is a highlight of our summer for sure,” she added.

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