Parade inside Valley Plaza helps educate and raise awareness on disabilities

Groups hosts 'Meet Your Neighbors' parade

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Neighbors in Bakersfield are getting the chance to meet one another during a first-of-a-kind march.

It’s part of a program designed to educate and raise awareness for people living with disabilities in Kern County.

City leaders are teaming up with ‘Meet your neighbors,’ an organization helping people with special needs integrate in the community and become more responsible and independent individuals.

David Castillo spent a lot of time getting his costume ready for his walk down Valley Plaza Mall.

"We got the handcuffs, the glasses; We're the sheriff's today so I feel good," said Castillo.

Castillo signed up to be part of the first annual ‘Meet your neighbors howdy parade,’ a chance to talk openly about his disability.

"I'm just a regular person like everybody else. I might be a little bit slow, but you know," he said.

And having a disability didn't really seem to matter for participants as they marched in full costume with friends and family, each showing off their creative side.

"The float is a wagon and it looks sort of like they had in the 1800's and I really like it," said Jeremy Pecoff, who volunteered to be part of the parade.

The parade route isn't too far, but organizers hope the message is one that will reach beyond the Valley Plaza Mall.

"Our individuals are citizens with disabilities in the Bakersfield community and are a real valuable part of Bakersfield and we want to do more to link them personally with individuals," said Julie Womack with Leadership Bakersfield.

Leaders with ‘Meet your neighbors,’ say the parade allows for volunteers to teach others about all types of disabilities while taking a positive role in the community.

"We want them to take away the experience of being out in the community as active participants not just passive observers that they really have something to give to the community and that we are all in this together as citizens of Bakersfield," she said.

Special prizes were handed out this afternoon for most creative, most vibrant/colorful and most inspirational float and costume.

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