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Celebrating IDD Awareness Month

The ARC of Pearl River County and Robert Lott Group Homes hosted a fun day at the Pearl River County Fairgrounds to celebrate Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month on Thursday.

Group homes and assisted living facilities from within and outside the county brought their residents to attend the fun day. The event was open to the public and featured demonstrations, activities and information. The annual event receives 150 to 200 attendees each year, said ARC treasurer Veronica Causey, and has grown larger over time. At least 50 volunteers joined in to help serve lunch and organize the event, said ARC Vice-President Madeline McNease.

Laney Jo, the Miss Mississippi Junior High Rodeo Queen, opened the festivities with a horseback presentation of the American flag in the fairgrounds arena. Then the rodeo queen demonstrated her barrel racing skills.

The crowd also watched demonstrations from local law enforcement of their K-9 dogs. The audience cheered when sheriff’s department cruisers pulled into the arena with their sirens blaring. One deputy sheriff stepped out of his car and raced across the arena, while one of the department’s drug dogs gave chase—giving attendees a demonstration of how the department’s drug dogs can chase a suspect who is trying to flee on foot.

After the K-9 demonstrations, everyone headed indoors to play games, dance and eat lunch. Attendees were able to get manicures from the Pearl River Community College cosmetology students, receive a basic health test from Highland Community Hospital staff and even pick up a snow cone or bag of popcorn before lunch.

Many attendees had their faces painted or donned balloon hats.

Nikki Angelo picked a pink nail polish for her manicure to match her shirt. Angelo liked the event, she said. Across the room Matthew Penter played some enthusiastic games of corn hole. He said he was a fan of the Saints themed bean bags.

The Awareness and Fun Day is the largest event the ARC hosts each year, said Causey. However, the organization tries to host events monthly.

“We want people to know that the disabled community is part of the community,” said Causey.

Events like the fun day help disabled individuals and their families know that the community supports them, she said. Along with hosting events, the ARC also tries to fill in the gaps when other services fail to meet the needs of people with disabilities, said Causey.