TAMPA — Becki Forsell is the poster child for empowering people with disabilities to get up, get out and be engaged in what the community has to offer them.
Forsell was declared legally blind 20 years ago following a serious car accident.
After a few short months of adjusting to the nuances of being visually impaired, she founded Yes! of America, a nonprofit organization designed to challenge people with physical and mental challenges to lead purposeful, productive and pleasing lives.
And out of that came the Yes! F.A.I.R. (Family Abilities Information Rally), which will celebrate its ninth year on Saturday (Oct. 1). The cost-free event is open to people of all ages and abilities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at All People's Life Center, 6105 E. Sligh Ave. There also is no charge for parking.
"I guess God has put me on a path to enrich the lives of others, but I couldn't do it by myself," said Forsell, who noted that what started out in 2007 with about 350 attendees and a handful of helpers is expected to draw more than 2,000 people this year, plus a "small army" of volunteers.
"My dream was simply to put a smile on someone's face and I have seen that dream come true many times over," she added.
Sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times in partnership with Hillsborough County, Mark Nash, a business consultant and strong advocate for people with disabilities, will serve as the emcee.
Themed "Unity in Diversity," this year's rally is expected to draw more than 200 representatives from local and out-of-state organizations and businesses who will offer people with special needs and their caregivers an assortment of available resources. plus, a wide range of food truck vendors plan to be on site with eats meant to satisfy a multitude of appetites.
In addition, there will be entertainment galore including performances by Rhapsody Ballroom dancers, Hindu dancers and a Philippine arts group.
New this year is what's being called Safety Street, an outdoor segment, sponsored in part by the University of South Florida's Center of Autism and Related Disorders, in which free bicycle helmets will be given out while supplies last. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue officials also will be on hand with information about bicycle, fire, water, poison and gun safety.
"We're excited to be part of this event," said CARD project coordinator Christine Rover. "Yes! has been such an incredible community partner and it's amazing to see the direct impact it's made in people's lives."
What's more, parents will have an opportunity to receive free ID bracelets for their children or other loved ones with dementia that can be used as a finding tool should they ever go missing. The Project Lifesaver effort is being funded by a $100,000 state grant, according to Forsell.
In addition, Jack Peacock from Marietta, Ga., owner of Peacock Communications, and legally blind attorney Liz Myska from Worcester, Mass., will host a booth in which he will demonstrate the Launch Guide device his company founded. The device, marketed under the brand name Complements, enables blind and hearing impaired people with smartphones to receive information they can either listen to or read at sites where the product is in place.
Myska also will present various sensory challenges on a temporary trail for blindfolded visitors who opt to participate.
Peacock, in fact, recently helped Jon Miller of Tampa, who is sight impaired and is expected to be at Saturday's event, design a walking trail with the Launch Guide at Alderman's Ford Park in Lithia for the teenager's Eagle Scout project.
"We're proud to have played a part in this extraordinary young man's quest to create a trail that is accessible for everyone," Peacock said.
The event also will feature a silent auction with an array of items that include jewelry, tickets to local professional sports teams' games, gift certificates to area restaurants, baskets filled with wine, kids' stuff, beach essentials and more. Proceeds will benefit the Yes! organization's Holiday Smiles program, which provides Christmas gifts for the needy.
Moreover, there will be a voters' registration booth, courtesy of the Suncoast Asian Cultural Association and the Chase Zen Foundation, part of the Central West Region of the Asian American Federation of Florida.
"We are calling Asian voters to participate in the election because everyone's vote counts," said coordinator Anne Huang.
Event chairman Melinda Wheatley is also supervisor of All People's Life Center, a venue that easily accommodate people with disabilities.
She also has a personal interest in the affair in that she is the daughter of a mother who is blind.
"The Yes! F.A.I.R. is all about making people aware that there are resources available to them and giving the community organizations an opportunity to showcase themselves," Wheatley said. "And it's a lot of fun."
Visit yesunited.org for more information.
Contact Joyce McKenzie at [email protected]