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Sandy Gbur: Building community connections

Community pride is never more evident than during the abundance of summer festivals and celebrations – perhaps the most impressive display of pride comes through the exhilaration that accompanies a town’s parade.

You can see it in the throngs of people lining the street. It is clear in the groups and businesses that march in the parade, many year after year. There are bands, scout groups and community leaders. There are colorfully decorated floats and cars.

Whether you are marching or cheering as the parade goes by, you feel an inherent connection to your community and all that makes it special.

At Western DuPage Special Recreation Association (WDSRA), we embrace the opportunity to demonstrate our ongoing support for each of the communities we are a part of by marching in almost a dozen parades a year. Being a part of a community means making a commitment to the people in it. It means being an active member, supporting the goals and values of its residents.

Beyond that, we want people with special needs to have the opportunity to feel that same connection to their community. They too should experience the excitement and energy of being a part of something wholesome and welcoming.

For too long, individuals with special needs have been stared at or treated as different. WDSRA provides recreation in the community alongside and with the general public. While there can be challenges that arise with some “not so accepting" public, we know that these are the times we can educate community members who may not know much about individuals with special needs.

It is with great pride that we march in parades with our participants and families. We celebrate the community connection by wearing WDSRA shirts, walking with the float, handing out candy and waving proudly to the crowd.

With each parade, we see a certain pep develop in the step of our participants and a little sparkle brighten their smile as they cruise down the parade route waving at their fellow friends and neighbors. When the crowd waves back, that connection is sparked. The excitement and energy comes from the pride of belonging, not just to WDSRA, but to their community.

So when you see the WDSRA float go by, know that your wave and enthusiasm can build a connection with someone very special in your community.

Sandy Gbur is the executive director of the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association (WDSRA).

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