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Hero Wellness Fair highlights disabilities awareness month

October is National Disabilities Awareness Month

October is National Disabilities Awareness Month


October is National Disability Awareness Month and installations across the Department of Defense are holding events to help bring awareness and education to military communities and Kirtland is no exception.

The Airmen and Family Readiness Flight here is putting on a Hero Wellness Fair Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Rio Grande Community Center (the Thrift Shop Building, 8150 Frost Ave or Bldg. 20226).

The Hero Wellness Information fair is the observance's key event and volunteer organizer Staff Sgt. Emma Koskiniemi said the event warrants a wide attendance because of the variety of info and services on offer at the fair.

“There will be multiple vendors and agencies on site to provide resources and information for disabled, wounded warrior, and special needs families,” she said. 

The event will include over 25 agencies and showcase the latest in services, technologies and adaptive equipment. The event’s guest speaker is former wounded warrior and Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Hettinger, 58th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. There will also be food trucks on site during the event.

Koskiniemi volunteered to learn and become a more well-rounded leader. She encouraged other people who may not have experience with disabilities to do the same.

“I honestly really didn’t know much about it so I wanted to learn more. It’s nice to know what’s out there,” Koskiniemi said. “You could be working with somebody who has a disability, and you wouldn’t know it. And as a supervisor, if someone who works for me has a [family member] with a disability, I should know how to help.”

There will be information on resources available on Kirtland and in the local community. The event also hopes to serve as a venue for people and families to network or connect with one other. Some of the agencies participating will include A Child’s Voice, Air Force Wounded Warrior, Angel Wellness Boutique, Blue Star Families, Kassy’s Kause, Military One Source, Villa Santa Maria, and many more.

“I hope people don’t think it’s just for people with disabilities--it’s for everybody,” Koskiniemi said. “It’s not geared toward a certain audience.”

Representatives from Kirtland’s Exceptional Family Member Program will be there as well, and of course, the Airman and Family Readiness Flight.  According to EFMP Family Support Coordinator, Ky’shia Newsome, EFMP provides compressive services for Airmen with family members having disabilities.

“The EFMP program is designed to provide support to our military members with [exceptional] family members and provides a variety of personal and support functions,” she said.

EFPM includes teams working family support, medical care and assignments. Newsome hopes people who need EFMP services will use the fair as an opportunity to come to the flight with needs or questions, she added.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, National Disability Employment Awareness Month was created to raise awareness about employment issues for disabled people, and celebrates the contributions of America's workers with disabilities. In 1945, Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week."

In 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to "National Disability Employment Awareness Month."

For more information or questions about the month’s events contact Koskiniemi at 505-846-1858 or Newsome at 505-853-1717.