Special needs talent show rocks Ridgeline High School auditorium

Benji Christensen wearing his funny teeth listens while Matt Meeker reads a joke for the audience.

There was a special evening for special people Thursday, March 28, at the Ridgeline High School auditorium.

Elizabeth Leatham shows her prowess for playing Table Quidditch as Benji Christensen keeps score.

“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.

Chelsey Evans sings God Bless America at the Cache Valley South Special Needs Mutual Talent Show Thursday evening.

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.

Jenny Griffiths sings Light the World With Love at the annual Cache Valley South Adult Special Needs Talent Show Thursday evening.

“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.”

Matt Dull, accompanied by nephew Toby Johnson, sings Somewhere Over the Rainbow Thursday evening at the “We’ve Got Talent,” Cache Valley South Adult Special Needs Mutual Talent Show.

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.

 

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4 Comments

  • Ian South March 31, 2019 at 1:12 pm Reply

    I’m apart of the special needs group but I wasn’t able to go to the talent show. I had to work the night of. I was a big hit last year.

  • Kent March 31, 2019 at 7:26 pm Reply

    My wife and I work with the northern group of SNAP (Special Needs Adult Program) and I can attest to the fact that these special people really do look forward to these yearly talent shows! Benji has been a fun tradition in these shows for many years and they all LOVE him!

  • Warren s Pugh April 1, 2019 at 5:37 am Reply

    It feels difficult to make a statement here. Too many critics out there ready
    to pounce on us . . do or don’t. Nothing but admiration here for the folks
    who kindly assist these people especially in this environment and at the
    Sports Academy.

  • Cody April 7, 2019 at 7:24 pm Reply

    I’m honored to call Benji my brother! He’s pretty humble when it comes to this but he is fantastic and loves everyone of those participants. He’s a good dude!

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