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Left to right: Manvel Mayor Debra Davison, Christina Moore, Reaghan Velasquez, Renae Velasquez, Manvel City Councilman Dan Davis

Featured Article

The Yellow Out Campaign

Pursuing Inclusion

Article by Cindy Leach

Photography by Amiee Cacolice

Originally published in Pearland Lifestyle

In a nutshell, Diversity is about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin.  Diversity has become a “buzzword” today and is being pursued by many organizations.  Bringing in diverse people to any organization widens a group’s perspective on all community members.  However, without Inclusion, it means nothing but having people present who are different.

Inclusion is a sense of belonging.  It’s not just being invited to the dance, but being asked to dance.  It’s not just sitting at the table, but being asked to speak up and participate – having full benefits of being part of the community.  Being inclusive allows an organization or community to utilize and engage talent effectively.

Merriam-Webster defines disability as “being impaired or limited by a physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition”.  Wikipedia defines it as “any condition that makes it more difficult for a person to do certain activities or effectively interact with the work around them (socially or materially)”. 

Twenty year old Reaghan Velasquez understands these concepts all too well.  Reaghan was diagnosed before birth with Spina Bifida; a rare disease where the neural tube, responsible for covering and protecting the spinal cord and nerve endings, does not close completely during fetal development.  Wherever the defect occurs along that tube, damages the nerves in that area, and the location of the defect determines the impact to the developing infant.

Reaghan’s defect caused damage to the nerves affecting the lower half of her body.  She has been mobile with the assistance of leg braces and a walker, but this still posed challenges to navigating certain places – restrooms, restaurants, playgrounds, and all facilities that were not inclusive in designing their space with disabilities in mind.

Reaghan did not let life slow her down.  She grew up in a loving, supportive family environment where her sister was her sibling rival and best friend.  They live in Manvel and Reaghan attended Mason Elementary School, where one day, her view of the world changed. 

It was during her fifth grade year, while sitting at recess and watching the other children play, that her teacher, Gwen Bray asked her if she was struggling to play on the terrain.  She responded yes, and Ms. Bray encouraged her to go inside and write a letter to the Alvin School District, expressing the need to change the access to the playground.  So, instead of recess that day, she set out to make a difference – for herself - and others who might face the same challenge.  Reaghan found a passion and drive to no longer be left on the “sidelines”; but to be included as much as the other children who were outside playing.

In two days, the playground had an asphalt ramp access to allow disabled children to move easily to the play equipment. 

This event, forged the path that pushed Reaghan to campaign for others who needed inclusion; for benefits and access that would make a difference for all disabled community members. 

In her sixth grade year, Reaghan’s friends, teachers, and encouragers helped her begin her first official campaign by obtaining 50 yellow wrist bands to show support for her efforts to make folks aware of the need to include disabled individuals.  From this point, her vision has grown exponentially!

In 2018, The Yellow Out Campaign (TYOC) was born, when Reaghan was 17 years old.  It is a growing 501(c)3, non-profit which focuses its efforts towards raising awareness, educating and advocating for Spina Bifida while also promoting inclusion for people of all abilities.  They challenge organizations to develop sites free of social and physical barriers through inclusive play.  But the mission goes far beyond inclusive playground sites:  TYOC aims to build inclusive play by providing those with disabilities the experiences that all bodies are capable of.

October is recognized as Spina Bifida Awareness Month – and TYOC takes advantage of this month to schedule numerous activities to raise funds and awareness; in particular a day of fun, music, and cooking.  Local supporters come out and share in making the day special for the organization.

In October, 2019, Manvel Mayor Debra Davidson, declared October 25th as Annual Yellow Out Day.  The organization was also recognized by the City of Houston and Bay City. 

In the summer of 2020, TYOC established its first inclusive playground project with the City of Manvel, in the Del Bello Lakes development community. "To the community, the Yellow Out Campaign means that kids will have the opportunity to feel like the belong and that they are loved. Their disabilities are not a hinderance but its what makes them special and they can do anything they set their minds to," shared Manvel City Councilman Dan Davis. They have hopes to expand even more around Brazoria County as just a start in their continuing advocacy for inclusion of people with diverse abilities.

Reaghan recently graduated from Alvin Community College with her Associate’s Degree and will be leaving soon for Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas where she plans to study Music Production/Artist Management.  She is grateful to her family, friends, and supporters, who have encouraged her on this unique and important venture.  They have shared her vision:  to see the necessity of adapting our environments to include all people with abilities in order to have thriving, successful communities. 

And to think – it all started with a young girl who just wanted to feel as normal as possible and to be able to play with her friends on the playground!

For more information on how to support The Yellow Out Campaign, please go to their website:  www.theyellowoutcampaign.org.

Upcoming Fundraiser

What: Pickin' For Play Time 2022

Where: Holiday Acres Tree Farm in Manvel, Tx

When: Saturday, January 16th from 3pm to 8pm 

How: Enjoy live music, local food trucks, silent and live auction, plus so much more! 

  • Reaghan Velasquez
  • Left to Right: Reaghan Velasquez, Christina Moore, Renae Velasquez, Manvel Mayor Debra Davison, Manvel City Councilman Dan Davis
  • Left to right: Manvel Mayor Debra Davison, Christina Moore, Reaghan Velasquez, Renae Velasquez, Manvel City Councilman Dan Davis