Fire department hosts special needs children at the Fair

FRESNO, Calif.

Every day the fire department hosts two or three families with special needs children to an all expenses paid visit to the fair. Friday a 9-year-old with autism got to come to the fair for the first time.

Gideon Castillo split his time Friday between hanging out with the Fresno Fire Department, enjoying rides at the Big Fresno Fair, and hamming it up for the cameras!

This is the 9-year olds first visit to an attraction that hundreds of thousands visit every October. Staying away from home for too long can be challenging because Gideon has a form of autism.

"He wasn't diagnosed until he was four-years-old. So he got a late diagnosis," said Erica Castillo, Gideon's mother.

Erica Castillo says her son needs constant structure and routine to function. "It's kind of hard because he has his little quirks and stuff like that and outbursts -- and he's a little bit loud so we're kind of limited to place we can go."

The fair actually proved to be an ideal destination.

"The public needs to recognize that these kids actually do understand more than we give them credit for," said Erica.

Fresno Fire Chief Chuck Tobias says for the last 16-years the department has hosted families like the Castillo's. "We see families a their worst, the most traumatic times in their lives on a regular basis and so this is an opportunity for the fire fighters to bound with families on a good note."

"We agreed we should hold our hands up and scream the whole time so that's what we ran with. It was a lot of fun," said Michael Hutcheson with the Fresno Fire Department.

The fire department partners with fair coordinators, local civic groups like the junior league, and receives donations to provide this service. Despite a tough economy Tobias says people are lining up to help continue this program next year.

To see if your family qualifies for this program you can contact the Fresno Fire Department like the Castillo's. They are still looking for families to sponsor next year.

-- Click here for the 2010 Big Fresno Fair Information page --

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