Halloween is a traditional autumn holiday throughout North America. And for some special adults in Idaho, it is a holiday they look forward to with great anticipation each year.
At a Halloween carnival given just for them, they arrive dressed up as clowns, hoboes, or witches (with at least one cowboy in the bunch). They bob for apples, hook treats from the fishing pond, win prizes for bean-bag tosses, and compete for goodies at the cake walk—all the usual fun that typifies Halloween. These people are special. They are handicapped.
About 50 adults ranging in age from 20 to 60 come from all over the Upper Snake River Valley of eastern Idaho to attend this carnival. They are guests of the Young Women of the Rexburg Idaho 18th Ward, Rexburg Idaho North Stake.
The event started as a service project seven years ago, and although the people who attend it receive great joy from it, the young women say they have been repaid with an increase of love and understanding for those with physical and mental handicaps.
“This project is a highlight of our year’s activities,” 17-year-old Elyse Moss says as she helps one of the guests shoot a basketball through the hoop. “They get so excited over little things—like this,” as she gestures toward the basketball standard. “They’re like little children on Christmas morning!” And as the evening progresses and both the guests and the hostesses become more comfortable with each other, “It gives you a really good feeling when one of the people asks you to have your picture taken with them,” Elyse continues. Seventeen-year-old Holly Holman adds, “I’ve learned that each person is unique. By the end of the night I’m comfortable around them and calling them by name.”
Other rewards for the young women have come from this activity. For instance, 14-year-old Megan Jeppesen says, “At first I was scared, but the carnival has helped me overcome my fears of handicapped people. Now I tutor some handicapped kids in my school.”
After an evening of games, doughnuts, and cider, the handicapped adults from eastern Idaho leave with happy hearts and bags full of treats. The Young Women of the Rexburg 18th Ward leave happy, too, and with a greater compassion for others who are different from them.