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Offutt, BPS collaborate special needs fair

Ruth Merwald, Giggles the clown, paints a child’s face April 9, 2019 at the Bellevue Lied Center, Nebraska. The 6th Annual Special Needs Fair also offered food and vendors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kendra Williams)

Ruth Merwald, Giggles the clown, paints a child’s face April 9, 2019 at the Bellevue Lied Center, Nebraska. The 6th Annual Special Needs Fair also offered food and vendors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kendra Williams)

Members of the Offutt community attend the 6th Annual Special Needs Fair at the Bellevue Lied Center, Nebraska, April 9, 2019. The fair is open to all Exceptional Family Member Program families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kendra Williams)

Members of the Offutt community attend the 6th Annual Special Needs Fair at the Bellevue Lied Center, Nebraska, April 9, 2019. The fair is open to all Exceptional Family Member Program families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kendra Williams)

Airman 1st Class Kate Gatsios, 55th Medical Group, and Airman 1st Class Dillon Kline, 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron, make cotton candy April 9, 2019, at the Bellevue Lied Center, Nebraska. The center was used for the 6th Annual Special Needs Fair. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kendra Williams)

Airman 1st Class Kate Gatsios, 55th Medical Group, and Airman 1st Class Dillon Kline, 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron, make cotton candy April 9, 2019, at the Bellevue Lied Center, Nebraska. The center was used for the 6th Annual Special Needs Fair. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kendra Williams)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

The Exceptional Family Member Program recently hosted its free annual special needs resource fair at the Bellevue Lied Center.

The EFMP program, implemented in all services, was established to guarantee amenities were available for special needs dependents of active duty members regardless of where they were stationed.

“The special needs fair started six years ago as a way to bring our special needs resources from the local, state and federal levels under one roof so they can be available for a face to face conversation with people who needed them,” said Caroline Olson, 55th Force Support Squadron EFMP manager.

This year’s fair included 68 vendors, 161 participants, 43 volunteers and 18 Bellevue Expanding Student Transition program students that set up the facility.

The BEST program is one of two transition programs that Bellevue Public Schools has within the Special Education Department for students between the ages of 18 and 21. It helps them develop life skills as well as work experience at the Bellevue Medical Center.  Project Search is the other transitional program.

“This event is not only an amazing community outreach program, but also a phenomenal collaboration with Bellevue Public Schools,” Olson said.

Also included in the event were food and a kid’s zone, with volunteers supporting from across the installation.

“Volunteers were from all parts of Offutt,” said Jonnie Dreher, 55th FSS EFMP. “There were such amazing people helping amazing people during a time when they've already been asked to do so much because of the flood.”