Photos of people who experience disabilities participating in various activities cover a board at the Disability Pride event at Soldotna Creek Park on Saturday, July 21, 2018 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Photos of people who experience disabilities participating in various activities cover a board at the Disability Pride event at Soldotna Creek Park on Saturday, July 21, 2018 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula residents gather for Disability Pride event

With a live band, facepainting, food trucks and peals of laughter as kids made their way down a broad slip and slide, Soldotna Creek Park looked like any other barbecue and party during the Disabliity Pride event Saturday.

And that was part of the point. Patterned after the LGBTQ pride events held worldwide in June, Disability Pride events are held in cities across the country and seek to celebrate people who experience disabilities of all kinds in fellowship with people without disabilities.

Stalls hosted by Frontier Community Services, Peninsula Community Health Services, the Independent Living Center and other organizations lined the edge of the park, offering everything from educational literature to cupcake walks. The pride events across the country focus on the social model of disability, a care model that integrates people who experience disabilities into the community rather than treating them as having an illness, according to National Council on Independent Living, which advocates for independent living for people with disabilities.

“It’s really about getting out here and being visible,” said Maggie Winston, one of the organizers of Saturday’s event and a member of Gov. Bill Walker’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education. “It’s about independence in whatever way that means for you.”

Having pride in oneself is an important factor in confidence, Winston said — people who experience disabilities can love themselves and take pride in their bodies and minds the same way everyone else can.

Frontier Community Services, which provides assistance for individuals who experience disabilities, encourages people to build support and network with each other within groups. Beth Weeks, the program manager for Frontier Community Services’ behavioral health, said the organization coordinated a field trip with group of people to Fur Rondy in Anchorage this winter. The people in the group experienced a variety of different disabilities and learned from each other, forming relationships, she said.

“We’re going on a three-day camping trip (as a group) soon too,” she said.

In front of the Frontier Community Services tent stood a sign covered in photos adorned with iterations of one phrase: “I can.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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