The Fresno Bee


  Date: Tuesday, December 30, 2014
By: Ron Orozco
Photo By: Craig Kohlruss
Nick Benson, 25, stands with his mother Crystal Benson, left, and grandmother Bobbie Coulbourne at their home in Sanger. Nick Benson, who has Down syndrome, has been selected to ride the Kiwanis float in the 2015 Rose Parade.

A Sanger resident with Down syndrome who enjoys doing good deeds has been selected to ride on the Kiwanis International float at the Pasadena Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.

Nick Benson, 25, will wear a Canada hockey jersey aboard the float in honor of great-great grandparents George and Pearl Jones from Canada.

Benson said he was “excited” about the parade.

This year’s Rose Parade theme is “Inspiring Stories.” Since Kiwanis is celebrating its 100th year in 2015, the service organization’s float theme is “100 Years Inspiring Children.” The float is fashioned to resemble a three-layer birthday cake with candles, balloons and gifts.

Benson was chosen because of his involvement with Special Olympics since age 8 and with the Charis Community Aktion Club, a Kiwanis-sponsored program for adults with disabilities, since age 18. Of 16 people chosen to ride on the Kiwanis float, Benson is the only one with a developmental or physical disability.

“He’s a great guy doing great things,” said Steven Hadt, director of the executive office of the president of Kiwanis International.

Crystal Benson said her son has spent considerable time doing good work in the central San Joaquin Valley.

With the Charis Community Aktion Club, Benson has delivered cookies and a pinball machine to the Craycroft Center at Christmastime, raked leaves and cleaned debris along the San Joaquin River, cleaned the pond and cut back the oleander at the Coke Hallowell Center for River Studies and set up planter boxes for cats to exercise at the Feline Foundation.

He also has served in leadership with the Charis Community Aktion Club as vice president, secretary and treasurer.

“He likes helping others in need,” Crystal Benson said. “He has never complained.”

Nick Benson also has helped through Arc of Fresno and Madera Counties, which offers people who are intellectually and developmentally disabled the opportunity to thrive in a positive and nurturing way.

About four years ago, he heard his friends talk about not having enough food. So he worked with Arc to start a food bank in the Fresno area.

Bobbie Coulbourne is pleased her grandson was selected to ride on the Kiwanis float. She helped advocate on his behalf to attend mainstream schools. In Sanger, he attended Lincoln Elementary School, Washington Academy Middle School and Sanger High School.

“Nick has really changed my life,” Coulbourne said. “He taught us. He also taught the kids in schools with him.”

  Back to News