Navajo Resources Committee celebrates Exceptional Rodeo sponsors
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The Navajo Nation Council Resources Committee coordinated a banquet awards ceremony to show appreciation for sponsors of the Navajo Nation Fair Exceptional Rodeo recently.
Sponsors and coordinators of the rodeo gathered at the Sandia Casino and Resort on Nov. 5 to celebrate the successful completion of another rodeo for the exceptional needs students of the Navajo Nation.
As dinner was served to the sponsors, Flora Ben, visual technician for Navajo Nation Broadcast Services, shared a 30-minute video she produced on the 2007 Navajo Nation Fair Exceptional Rodeo.
Ben said the chance to work with the exceptional needs kids of the reservation is something she will never forget.
"This is an experience I've never felt before, it's heartfelt and it captures you," Ben said. "When I'm behind the camera, you can feel the difference in the hearts of the children."
Another volunteer working the public relations angle of the event is Gallup Independent reporter Karen Francis, who first became involved with the rodeo during her previous employment with the Speakers Office.
"The exceptional children's rodeo began in 2004, when a group of dedicated individuals came together under the leadership of George Arthur to organize an event to include the nation's children with disabilities," Francis said.
These kids require special equipment and extra help for the chance to enjoy the same activities other people take for granted, she noted.
"The planning team ensures those resources are provided for on Kid's Day every year during the Navajo Nation Fair," Francis said. "Everyone on the planning team is a volunteer and we rely on assistance from the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department."
One volunteer from the parks and recreation was office specialist Benita Jaye.
Jaye assisted with the graphic designs highlighting the event. For her efforts over the past four years, she was presented Pendleton blanket and an award for the department.
Since 2004, she worked alongside David Wilson, who also produced the signs for the exceptional rodeo. Wilson was also presented with a Pendleton blanket.
"I'm totally struck by this," Jaye said. "We do a lot of work. For someone to give us a big pat on the back is amazing."
The number of volunteers participating in the exceptional rodeo has mushroomed and brought participation from over 250 children from schools across the reservation. Kids from kindergarten to eighth grade are welcome to participate in the event.
The children participating in the rodeo typically receive a lot of assistance from programs established under the Navajo Nation Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
OSERS was another sponsor of the rodeo present at the banquet and awards ceremony.
Doreen Chavez of the Tohajiilee OSERS office gave a powerpoint presentation on the services provided by the department.
"I work with children with disabilities from birth to five years of age," Chavez said. "The children we represent, children with disabilities they're born with, or what they've acquired really opens your eyes to these kids."
She said OSERS helps disabled tribal members with vocational rehabilitation services, independent living services, early childhood intervention and job assistance through the Tuba City Industrial Laundry and Vending Services.
Other components of the department include Navajo ABLE, Navajo Nation Handicap Trust Funds and the Navajo Nation Advisory Council on the Handi-CAPABLE.
OSERS provides assistance to tribal members who are deaf, blind, mentally disabled, or visually-impaired.
"Our goal is to give (our clients) success in living independently," Chavez said.
Giving disabled kids the chance to participate in the Navajo Nation Fair was the mission of another sponsor of the rodeo.
Recognizing the needs of the Navajo Nation's disabled children, PNM sponsored the rodeo since its inception four years ago.
Cathy Newby, tribal relations administrator for PNM said, "We've been involved in this exceptional rodeo every year and we keep coming back for more because it's such a worthwhile event."
Native Energy Resource Development has been a primary sponsor of the rodeo and shared the same commitment to providing the kids with something tangible they can experience.
Bob Hunts, an administrator for NERD flew into Albuquerque from Austin to attend the banquet and said he'd participated in the exceptional rodeos of Texas in the past.
"We're just at the sunrise of a lot of activities that we believe will be very beneficial to the Navajo Nation," Hunts said.
Meeting the needs of exceptional children and offering a chance for them to participate in the fair is absolutely worthwhile, according to the delegate who coordinated the event.
Seeing the smiles on the faces of participants is something you can't put a price tag on, said George Arthur, chairman of the Navajo Nation Council Resources Committee.
Serving on the council and resources committee for over 17 years, Arthur said he's seen a lot and learned from the Navajo people, which has kept his interest after all this time.
"Often times, I learn from the common person, from people who face ordinary everyday challenges," Arthur said. "From the past few years, I've learned a lot from the very child we celebrate tonight.
"You can imagine what this child and their family have to go through every morning just to get ready for the day," he said.
Because the common tasks we take for granted present such huge hurdles for these exceptional children, Arthur said the fortitude of these kids participate in the rodeo is truly an accomplishment.
"The sport of rodeo talks about trying and reaching down into the guts of your being, where pain means nothing," he said. "If there ever was a person trying, it's this child reaching down and trying, giving their all."
Before concluding the banquet, Arthur gave thanks to all sponsors and said, "We must be a part of their lives. Your generosity has played a major role in providing this small event in the greater picture of the Navajo Nation Fair."
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