Celebrating Halloween with Skills Community Participation Support

This post was contributed by Skills Program Specialist, Mike Miller

On Tuesday, October 22, the Johnstown Skills Community Participation Support program had the opportunity to take part in the annual Downtown Johnstown Halloween Parade. The whole experience can only be described as a huge success, encapsulating everything that our program strives to be – inclusive, empowering, connecting, and most of all – FUN!

The parents of one of tPeople stand on a parade float and a banner reads "You can be who you want to be at Skills."he members of the program offered their tractor and trailer, and direct support professionals from the day program and residential programs volunteered their time decorating the float, wearing their best costumes, and walking beside the float as the members and their families rode on hay bales, holding up signs that read “Happy Skills Halloween!” The theme of the float was written on large banners on each side of the wagon – “You can be who you want to be at Skills” – and the members truly shined as they waved to the large crowds that came to see the parade.

The entire night was a family affair. Moms and dads, children and grandchildren – all dressed in costume – walked along the sides of the float handing out candy to the kids in the crowd.

At one point, a person we support, who had been pushed in a transport wheelchair up until this point, decided she wanted to stand up and walk in the procession. As she was supported to her feet, the group behind ours in the parade waited patiently while we came to a slight stop. She got out of her chair and walked proudly, blowing kisses to the crowd and waving back to friendly faces. When she sat back in her chair, the group behind us waited again – but this time, they broke out into applause for her. With a huge smile on her face, she blew kisses to them too as the parade neared the end of the procession.

Another highlight was when the float went past the judging and media stage near Central Park. As we crossed in front of the lights and cameras, in front of the com

munity that was so warm and welcoming throughout the night, the announcer came over the loudspeaker, reading the information we provided the organizers when we registered:

“The Johnstown Skills day program provides support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are marching tonight to celebrate our diverse abilities and for inclusion in our community.” And we did.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that this can be a challenging field. In the day-to-day of Skills, there are times when it can feel like walking the walk of person-centered action, developing meaningful connections in the community, and making a lasting impact on the lives of the people we support are more ideals than actions. There are times when the going gets tough, when it feels like an uphill battle, when it seems like our goals are so far away.

A person stands near a parade float.

The night of the Halloween Parade wasn’t one of those times.

A huge thank you to every Skills employee who volunteered their time – unpaid – to make this night so special. A huge thank you to all the families who came and stood with the people we support – not for them, but WITH them – as we took part in one of the biggest community events that the area has to offer.

And thank you – every Skills employee who might be reading this – for all that you do. Know that it makes a difference every single time you keep showing up.

Happy Halloween from our little corner of Skills – where you can be who you want to be.

A person stands near a parade float.