Reprinted from the Kilgore News Herald: Tuesday, Aug. 23
Kilgore Fire Department’s putting out the call once again: “Heroes Welcome.”
The community’s fifth annual SAFFE Day is set for Saturday, Sept. 17, and local firefighters have already set to work sprucing up past year’s games and activities while crafting new challenges for special needs children and adults.
The free Special Abilities Family Fun Event is custom-fit for the “Everyday Heroes” who descend on downtown Kilgore from through East Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and as a far south as Austin in recent years.
“It’s a day for anyone with special needs or abilities. It’s a day for them and their family,” Kilgore Fire Chief Johnny Bellows says. “A day that is free to learn about fire safety and to enjoy themselves and not be looked upon as being different. They are the norm.
“Every event is made so that anyone can participate … whether it’s with help from a firefighter or volunteer or just something simple enough they can do themselves.”
SAFFE Day itself is set from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 17 on Commerce Street, but the organizers are once again planning a kick-off event the same week: this year, the group will unveil their 2015 documentary on the event with a red-carpet premiere of “Everyday Heroes” at 4 Star Cinema.
The movie theater has donated the use of its screens for the evening, Kilgore Assistant Fire Chief Mike Simmons said, with two showtimes. Directed by Chip Hale of Overton, the 40-minute documentary includes footage from past SAFFE Day events, interviews with organizers and features on its special needs ambassadors.
The film has been nominated for Best Documentary Shoot at the Austin Revolution Film Festival.
“We’re going to have the first showing at 6 p.m.,” Simmons said. “At around 7 p.m. we’re going to have our red carpet event followed by another movie showing,” and an appearance by SAFFE Day’s mascot, Blazze, with 2016’s SAFFE Day Ambassador, 11-year-old Ryan Bailey.
Concessions will be available for purchase and some refreshments will be provided. Tickets for the premiere must be reserved in advance – learn more by calling 903-988-4112; admission is free while SAFFE Day’s organizers accept donations.
For both the kick-off and the primary SAFFE activities on Saturday, “This is a free event based on donations from the public,” Bellows said. “We do welcome any donations. They can also assist us through our silent auction that we currently have going.”
The silent auction is open to the public through Sept. 9 in KFD’s administrative offices at Meadowbrook Golf & Event Center. The organizers are also hosting a rifle raffle, the drawing set for 2 p.m. Sept. 17. Raffling a Fireman Tribute Henry Golden Boy Lever-Action .22 Long Rifle, tickets are $10 each or $20 for three.
Meanwhile, SAFFE Day continues to recruit volunteers and vendors as it spreads news about the open-to-the-public event to its Everyday Hero guests.
“Kilgore Fire Department began it and is a big part in helping put it on,” KFD Administrative Assistant Kristi Simpson explained. “We’re also trying to pull in a lot of vendors who can set up activities in their own booth to provide a lot of opportunities to participate.
“It’s a day that is free to those involved, including the vendors. It’s free because people give, donate, raise money and just provide their services.”
Anyone interested in becoming a vendor or volunteer can reach Simpson at 903-988-4112.
Heading into its fifth event, SAFFE Day is growing, Bellows said.
“We’re expanding. More vendors, more participants,” he noted. “We’ve got more people from the community on our board now.
“The spirit of SAFFE Day not only is growing in the public but it’s stronger with the firefighters. We have more firefighters signed up to help us off-duty.”
Local businessman Kenny Mobbs joined the SAFFE Day board after years as a dedicated supporter. He’s keen to see the return of the red capes each special needs guest received in September 2015.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “It makes me just want to get involved and do things for the ones with the special needs.”
Mobbs has two young relatives with special needs: “They come every year and they love it. You take firemen and special needs children, it’s all just a special blend. Seeing them with their capes and their helmets, that’s a thrill there – they think they’re superheroes and that’s what this thing’s all about.”
For more information, log on to SAFFEday.org or search Facebook for “SAFFE Day.” To sign-up as a participant, helper or supporter, call 903-988-4112. Guests can also register at http://conta.cc/2bgTRv9 and vendors can sign up at http://conta.cc/2bgTsZx.