CALIPATRIA — The Special Needs Resource Foundation of San Diego held an all-inclusive literacy event at the Best S.T.E.P. Forward building Saturday, July 31. 

Representative of Special Needs Resource Foundation of San Diego Linda Bay said they host events like these in San Diego and first brought the event to Imperial County last year in collaboration with Best S.T.E.P. Forward. However, due to the pandemic, the event had to be facilitated virtually and this is the first year an in-person gathering of this particular event has been held in the area.

Books

A collection of free books provided by Special Needs Resource Foundation of San Diego for the all-inclusive literacy event at the Best S.T.E.P. Forward building Saturday, July 31. 

“We brought a free book for every child that attends, we brought a free book bag for every child that attends, and then we brought a craft for each of the different books, and then we brought snacks and foods,” said Bay.

Reads

A child reads at the all-inclusive literacy event at the Best S.T.E.P. Forward building Saturday, July 31. 

Bay said they also brought three recorded reading sessions from authors across the country, reading the books they’ve written, to read along with the children in attendance. 

Treasurer for Best S.T.E.P. Forward, Christina Rivera-Lopez, also held a read-along session with some of the 45 kids registered for the event and said it was great to make that connection with kids by reading together. 

Reading session

Treasurer for Best S.T.E.P. Forward Christina Rivera-Lopez has a read-along session at the all-inclusive literacy event at the Best S.T.E.P. Forward building Saturday, July 31. 

“You can see the interest in their eyes. I think they enjoy it, and it makes them think about the story. I like to read one page and then pause to discuss the story with them,” said Rivera-Lopez.

Bay said the event went great, and it would not have been possible without Jaqueline Riddell, the founder of Best S.T.E.P. Forward. 

“Jackie is amazing. Her and her company are beyond excited and welcoming, and you guys are so lucky to have someone like Jackie and Best S.T.E.P. Forward in Calipatria,” said Bay.

Riddell said her organization offers sports and recreation for the underserved north end of Imperial County but particularly caters to the entire special needs community in the area. 

She said the event was geared toward the special needs community but was all-inclusive for anyone to attend. 

“It’s our way of promoting a more accepting environment of people born with differences,” said Riddell. 

Riddell was very appreciative of the Special Needs Resource Foundation of San Diego for all of their work to help to supply the area she feels is so underserved. 

“We’re really excited that the special needs resource team drove all the way out here early in the morning just for us, to bring all these amazing books to encourage more inclusive reading,” said Riddell. 

She said they were invited by the resource team to attend a day of play in San Diego on September 25 for the special needs youth where Best S.T.E.P. Forward plans to instruct soccer drills as that is one of the core aspects of what they do. 

“We are the only special needs league for soccer that I’ve seen anywhere,” said Riddell.

Riddell said events like these at Best S.T.E.P. Forward have been successful in creating a social outlet for special needs children that often have difficulty connecting with others in different settings. 

She said many of the parents have been grateful to see their children flourish with the program. As a mother of two autistic children herself, Riddell is passionate and making sure Best S.T.E.P. Forward continues to work for the special needs community.

“They didn’t have a circle, so we created the circle,” said Riddell.

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