KILGORE, Texas (KLTV) -
It’s the eighth time it’s been put on and has grown steadily since its inception. The City of Kilgore along with the Kilgore Fire Department is hosting its annual Special Abilities Family Fun Event Day, or SAFFE Day.
KLTV spoke with the father of this year’s appointed Ambassador about the event.
Mason Riley has attended four SAFFE Day events, but this is the first time he’s been appointed Ambassador. His father, Ryan Riley works with the Kilgore Fire Department and thinks it’s great his son will be in that role.
Mason Riley has attended four SAFFE Day events, but this is the first time he’s been appointed ambassador. His father, Ryan Riley, works with the Kilgore Fire Department and thinks it’s great his son will be in that role.
Kilgore Fire Chief Johnny Bellows looks forward to the event every year. He says originally it was held to make those with special needs more comfortable with uniformed first responders.
“We thought that they would come in and we would teach them about fire safety and they would learn how to interact with firefighters and public servants. What we actually learned was that we learned more from them than they learned from us,” Bellows revealed.
The teacher became the student.
“You know, in the past I think we were timid around someone with special needs, but we learned how to interact with them. And now if I go to a store somewhere, instead of trying to shy away from maybe someone with special needs, actually will go up and interact with them,” Bellows stated.
Besides plenty of games and free stuff attendees get to take a close look at, and even handle, emergency equipment.
“The event that rescue does, we actually have the rescue tools out and actually take apart a car, or let the special needs kids come up and use the tools and take the car apart,” Ryan said.
Ryan says they are closely supervised and that is one of Mason’s favorite things to do at SAFFE Day. And as for their relationship the rest of the year:
“He brings us joy every day of our lives. We were kind of ... when we first found out he had issues, it was kind of alarming and everything to us, but we realized later it was just a gift from God and we enjoy it every day,” Ryan added.
And this year’s SAFFE Ambassador loves the event whether he’s a representative or just an attendee.
SAFFE Day is this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. under the oil derricks in downtown Kilgore. The event is free and organizers say they have families coming from four states.