Heroes Health Fair: Advocating for the Special Needs Community

May 2, 2024

Credits to Dr. Erlinda Lopez-Rodriguez and Dr. Lucero Martinez-Delgado

In a world that often overlooks the unique needs of individuals with special needs, the Heroes Health Fair shined brightly with inclusivity, education and joy. The event aimed to celebrate the resilience of the special needs community and to provide invaluable resources and support to families, the heroes working to advocate for the special needs community.

Future Healthcare Heroes of UIW, a committee of student organizations composed of the Student Government Association, the Society of Therapeutic Rehab Students (STRS), UIW Special Olympics and the Pre-Physician’s Assistant Society of UIW, organized and hosted the event. Members of the Heroes Health Fair Committee believe that this event is a manifestation of the student body’s commitment to the Mission entrusted to us by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. Rooted in the principles of compassion, service and empowerment, this initiative embodies the essence of our University's purpose.

From the moment attendees arrived, they were engulfed in an atmosphere of warmth and acceptance. Volunteers, adorned in vibrant costumes and welcoming smiles, greeted guests and led the way through the different resource tables, making everyone feel comfortable and included. The fair was thoughtfully designed to accommodate people with special needs, ensuring that every family felt empowered, just like true superheroes.

One of the highlights of the Heroes Health Fair was its diverse range of interactive activities tailored to engage individuals of all abilities. From therapeutic art sessions and adaptive sports demonstrations to appearances by professional cosplayers portraying fan-favorite superheroes, performances by the beloved UIW cheer team and even exclusive one-on-one interactions with the Spurs Coyote, there was something for everyone to enjoy. These activities brought immense joy to participants and fostered a sense of community and belonging.

The heart of the fair lay in its educational offerings. Booths manned by healthcare professionals and specialists provided families with valuable information on topics ranging from nutrition and physical therapy to mental health and assistive technology. Moreover, the Heroes Health Fair served as a platform for advocacy and awareness. Representatives from advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations shared stories of resilience and triumph, shed light on the challenges faced by the special needs community and shared how to advocate for greater inclusivity and support.

"The fair was not just a gathering of people; it was a testament to the power of community and the importance of inclusivity,” shared Dr. Erlinda Lopez-Rodriguez, UIW chair of Human Performance.

As the day ended, it was clear that the Heroes Health Fair had achieved its goal of creating a fun and engaging experience for the special needs community while offering invaluable education resources for families. But more than that, it sparked a sense of hope and optimism for a future where inclusivity, acceptance and support are the norm rather than the exception.

Future Healthcare Heroes organization members who helped to organize the fair were also very pleased with how the event turned out.

“As the president of Future Healthcare Heroes, I am proud to introduce the inaugural Heroes Health Fair, a collaborative effort between healthcare heroes and student-led organizations at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW),” stated student leader Tyler Simmons. “Our team is dedicated to organizing an event that not only educates but also uplifts the special needs community by showcasing professional organizations offering specialized services while providing an enjoyable experience through interactive activities.”

In the end, the Heroes Health Fair was not just an informative event, but a celebration of resilience, unity and the extraordinary potential that lies within every member of the special needs community. As attendees dispersed, their hearts full and spirits uplifted, they carried with them the knowledge that they are not alone—that they are surrounded by a network of healthcare heroes who will continue to champion their cause and celebrate their triumphs, today and every day.

“The Heroes Health Fair is not just a one-time event,” said Luis Valdes, founder of Future Health Care Heroes. “It's the beginning of a tradition that will shine a light on the power of unity, student movement and collective action, leaving a lasting impact on our University and beyond.”