Jefferson Awards for Public ServiceBy Sharon Chin


MARTINEZ (CBS SF) — Students with disabilities put on performances like superstars, thanks to a Martinez woman who highlights their abilities.

This week’s Jefferson Awards winner Annette Odello helps the Special Needs Color Guard put its best feet forward.

25-year-old Karina Bengco gets to dance her heart out.

“This is what dreams are made of, because of her,” Bengco said.

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The color guard is part of Concord’s world champion Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps. Odello, daughter of the Blue Devils founders, started the special needs group nine years ago with practices in Concord and Fremont. It’s trained more than 150 students with physical and developmental disabilities.

“When they’re performing, I mean, it is just such a rush,” Odello explained.

Karina’s mother, Corazon Bengco, said Odello has helped boost her daughter’s confidence.

“She wanted to show her abilities and not her disabilities,” said Bengco.

The Blue Devils pay Odello $100 a month to lead the weekly classes with several volunteers. The classes are free, and fun. Most of the students are between 18 and 26 years old, but there is no age limit.

“I feel, like, happy,” said 27-year-old Christian Magoon. His 25-year-old brother, Brennan, agreed. He enjoyed holding the flag and making new friends.

Their mother, Barbara Magoon, said students and families get emotional at the annual performances Odello choreographs.

“Wow, you can see the pride in their faces,” she said. “And that’s because she’s filled with that kind of joy and generosity herself.”

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“They are the stars. They’re not the background support system. They’re the focus,” said Odello. “And most of the parents have not ever been in that position, nor have their parents seen them in that position.”

The students’ parents and families are simply grateful to Odello for her kindness and patience.

“When I see her, I always thank her because she was a wonderful heart,” said Bengco.

 

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