There was a special evening for special people Thursday, March 28, at the Ridgeline High School auditorium.
“We’ve Got Talent,” a Cache Valley South Adult Special Needs Mutual Talent Show drew some 250 people who clapped, laughed and waved light sticks in the air while participants sang, danced, read a poem or told jokes.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsors the Cache Valley South Adult Special Needs Mutual for individuals 18 years and up.
The church’s program purpose is two-fold: to provide an opportunity for our participants to continue to learn and grow their life skills and enjoy activities with their peers in a safe and comfortable social setting; and, enhancing their spiritual and emotional development.
The other thing is to provide an opportunity for ward youth from the 15 participating Stakes to learn and to grow as they serve and interact with those they may not otherwise have occasion to, hopefully enhancing their compassion.
Benji Christensen was the emcee for the show. He’s been doing it for 23 years. He knows most of the contestants and they know him.
He was not afraid to banter with contestants on stage and they know him well enough to give it right back. Christensen would offer them help, and they ordered him off the stage. He changed his look with different hats, funny teeth, sometimes a jacket, he even donned a rubber horse head, all to the delight of the audience and the participants.
“I went to one these talent shows after my mission because I had an aunt with Down Syndrome,” he said. “I was asked to be the emcee once and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
He actually met his wife at one of the shows.
“I’m a huge proponent of it. I think they’ve been doing it close to 30 years. It’s a great opportunity for people all over the valley,” Christensen said. “They absolutely love to interact with each other over the years.”
It grows and grows every year, he said, and he wouldn’t miss it.
“It started at the church gym and we grew to where we couldn’t get everyone in the church,” he said. “I look forward to it every year and they act like they actually love me.”
He has fun being a part of “We’ve Got Talent.”
“Even though it’s the same thing every year it never gets old.”
Vicky Gates, who serves with her husband Bruce as the leaders of the organization, said “Benji can’t move or die, he’ll be doing this forever. He does such a great job.”
She said there are two special needs groups sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ in the valley. The boundaries they are responsible for range from Logan-south and covers 15 stakes. There is another group to the north.
“We used to be all one big group, but they split us up about 10 years ago,” Gates said. “The church sponsors us, but our activities are open to everyone with special needs and we have some that attend that are not members. We take all special needs adults from 18 years and up.”
She said they average 100 to 120 people at their activities, with an unknown percentage not being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The audience grows every year. Different congregations assign members to help with the program year after year.
All those who have worked in the Special Needs Mutual get an email letting them know of the activity. The email list grows every year.
“We get young men and young women’s groups coming to the show, so, yes, I think the audience is growing,” said Gates.