Program makes memories for ill, disabled youngsters at the fair

Organized by firefighters, it gives six kids a special day

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 

If you go

What: Clark County Fair.

Hours today: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Where: 17402 N.E. Delfel Road.

Admission: Adults, $10; seniors 62 and older, $8; kids 7-12, $7; kids 6 and younger, free; parking, $6; C-Tran shuttle, $2 per person round-trip from area park-and-ride lots; children 6 and younger ride free. $1 discount on admission with a bus fare stub.

Carnival: Opens at noon; unlimited rides today, $25.

Sleep Country Amphitheater: Alan Jackson, with special guest Glorianna, 7:30 p.m. Extra fee.

99.5 The Wolf Grandstands: Truck Pull Extravaganza, 2 and 7 p.m.

Other highlights: Buzzin’ Bees Square Dancing, 2 p.m.; Clark County Regional K-9 Demonstrations, 6 p.m.

Pets: Not permitted, except for personal service animals or those on exhibition or in competition.

More information: Clark County Fair or call 360-397-6180.

Online: Download the mobile app for the Clark County Fair.

Melissa Macy is 18 years old, and although she's been to a county fair before, she's never once been on a carnival ride.

That all changed Tuesday, when the teen was lifted into a seat on the Giant Wheel ride at the Clark County Fairgrounds. Sandwiched between two volunteers from Clark County Fire District 6, Melissa's body was adequately supported, and she could leave her wheelchair behind.

"She's having a ball, enjoying the smells and the music," her stepfather, Evan Turner, said as he watched from the ground. He kept an eye on the yellow seat that carried Melissa around the towering Ferris wheel.

Melissa has cerebral palsy. She can't walk or verbalize her thoughts, and she requires a feeding tube. But that doesn't mean she can't delight in many of the fair's activities, her family said.

"Look at her, she's smiling! She likes that," her mother, Chablis Turner, said as her daughter exited the Ferris wheel.

The teen is one of six children picked to participate in this year's Memory Makers program at the fair. Organized by firefighters from Fire District 6, the program aims to provide a fun-packed day for children with disabilities, as well as give their families a mental break from the challenges that coincide with their child's disability.

"It's about the kids, but also the family and giving them a good experience," firefighter-paramedic and Memory Makers volunteer Clint Greeley said Tuesday.

Melissa's family lives in Bend, Ore., but Melissa lives at the Providence Child Center in Portland. Her family moved her there when she was 13. Providence provides programs to keep Melissa mentally stimulated throughout the day, her family said. They visit Melissa about once a month and stay in an on-site apartment.

Turner said it hadn't crossed her mind that her daughter could get on a carnival ride until she heard about the Memory Makers program. "It means a lot just having the support to do that," she said.

Celebrating remission

For Celina Fierro of Vancouver, taking her daughter, Jazmine Bossman, to the Clark County Fair also had a special meaning.

"Last time we were here (at the fair), she was just a couple of months old," Fierro said.

That was before she learned her daughter had a cancerous brain tumor that had spread down her spine. Since then, Jazmine, who will be 4 in October, has undergone at least 10 surgeries and two bouts of chemotherapy.

But on Tuesday, Jazmine's family had something to celebrate. Jazmine is in remission, and her remission has lasted for a whole year. Other children Fierro knew with the same condition didn't make it to the one-year mark.

With her cancer in remission, Jazmine is learning to walk and talk. As she toured the petting zoos at the fair, she clung to the sides of the animal cages to steady herself. Other times she held her mother's hand, pointing to the next animal she wanted to see. She waived to a llama, touched the soft fur of a bunny rabbit, socialized with several goats, and felt the belly of a pig.

"Look at that, he's rolling over for you," Jazmine's dad, Sean Bossman, said as they watched the pig. He wore a shirt with the words: "Brain tumors affect people from all walks of life."

Jazmine's two stepbrothers and her grandmother tagged along for the fun. The brothers rode bumper cars, played a paint ball target-shooting game, and visited the exotic animal exhibit, which featured wild cats, snakes and other reptiles. All of it was paid for by Memory Makers.

Jazmine's grandmother, Esther Fierro, said it was nice to see the family spending quality time together after everything they've been through.

"It just breaks my heart to see (my) children go through this," she said, adding that Jazmine's parents have handled her battle with cancer well. "I'm very proud of them."

Jazmine's mother said the best part of the fair was watching Jazmine's reaction.

"Just to see her smile, that's all that matters," she said.

The Memory Makers program is in its 11th year. People's Community Federal Credit Union provides money to cover the families' food and games costs, while the Clark County Fair and Butler Amusement provides them with free rides and fair entry. The firefighters that escorted the families around the fair volunteered their time on behalf of the Local 1805 Professional Firefighters union.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com