Cristefer Bohannon’s lungs don’t work so well, and a congenital heart defect tries to slow him down, but the 11-year-old wasn’t having any of that Saturday afternoon – not on SAFFE Day.

According to his grandmother, Tracie, Kilgore’s Special Abilities Family Fun Event is an essential outing for the Gladewater boy. Cristefer was in high spirits and full gear (SAFFE hat, cape and “Shoot for the Moon” shirt) as he put the 2019 event’s activities to the test Sept. 21.

“We love it. He loves it,” Bohannon said. With various health issues, “He doesn’t get out a lot. He does homebound school, and this is great for him,” an opportunity to be surrounded not only by SAFFE Day’s small army of volunteers  but by hundreds and hundreds of other children and adults with special needs.

With firefighters and other emergency responders in the spotlight alongside their ‘Everyday Heroes,’ “It’s the best ever. If something happens, they’re all right here.”

Free to special needs individuals, their families and caregivers, SAFFE Day is also open to the wider community, inviting everyone to celebrate their differences. The festival’s footprint stretched from Lantrip to Main Street Saturday, filled with games, sponsored activities, food, entertainment and more.

Kilgore Fire Chief Johnny Bellows welcomed 2019 SAFFE Day Ambassadors Sergio Najera and Mason Riley to cut the official caution tape ribbon Saturday to kick-off the event.

“No matter how different we are, no matter what are abilities or disabilities are, we’re all one,” Bellows said. “We’re one nation under God, and God had a plan when he made everyone different. We’re very proud that he made different colors and different types so that our world is very beautiful.”

“This is our eighth annual SAFFE Day. It’s gotten bigger and better every year, and we’re very excited to move forward today.”

Susy Mohon has been bringing her son, Mitch, to the event since its inception in 2012. He may be non-verbal, but Mitch is a familiar sight during the numerous street dances that break out each year in the midst of SAFFE Day.

“I’m so appreciative of all the people doing this for the special needs people,” she said. “It’s so nice. I’ve never seen this anywhere else.”

In addition to being a parent of someone with special needs, Mohon also previously worked with a number of special needs patients, children and adults, in healthcare.

The outing is especially important for older individuals, she said.

“I know all the group homes, all of them, look forward to this and plan for it ahead of time. They all love it and look forward to it every year.”

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