Parent advocacy group celebrates kids with special needs

Sep 26, 2022, 10:15 PM | Updated: 10:31 pm

DRAPER, Utah — A rally in Draper brings hundreds of people together to celebrate inclusion for kids with special needs.

The event was organized by the parent advocacy group We All Belong.

“We’re having a big pep rally themed celebration for inclusion kind of getting all the kids from all the different districts around here pumped about practicing inclusion this year in school,” said Oakley Peterson, We All Belong founder. She’s a mother to a nine-year-old with Down syndrome.

This rally is the second of its kind. It’s important to parents like Joshua Wittwer, whose son, Eddie, has Down syndrome.

“Eddie is 11, and he’s currently in a program exactly like what this is pushing for,” Wittwer continues. “The experience that he’s having is marvelous. And we owe it to his educators and all these great kids in the community that is looking out for him.”

That experience didn’t come easy. Wittwer and Peterson pushed hard last year when Jordan District threatened to cut some special needs programs. And that potential move by the district lit a fire in parents like Peterson, who determined it was time for a monumental shift in the way kids with special needs are treated.

Her son had been bussed to five different elementary schools in Jordan District.

“We’ve seen it in the last year and a half that we’ve had my son at his boundary school. The gaps that have been bridged because of having him there and having a child with those differences has completely changed that student body for the better, and it’s a beautiful thing,” Peterson said.

Her son now attends the family’s boundary school, and she says the change in the community has been palpable.

And while the rally was filled with dancing, raffles, food trucks, and fun. Peterson says the ultimate goal is still the same.

“The ultimate goal is for every parent to have the opportunity to send their child to their boundary school,” And Wittwer couldn’t agree more. ”I am well aware of the special circumstance that Eddie enjoys, and I just hope all kids with special needs can have a similar experience.”

We All Belong also announced they are joining the non-profit United Angels.

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Parent advocacy group celebrates kids with special needs