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The Salvation Army holds sensory-friendly bell ringing

Posted: 10:39 PM, Dec 02, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-02 23:39:35-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It's a sound that's become a staple of the holiday season... but tonight, it was silent in an effort to create a trigger-free environment for people with autism.

The Salvation Army traded its traditional bells for red glow sticks at the HyVee at 132nd and Dodge Monday night so everyone felt included in the annual holiday tradition.

"There’s not so much noise,” said Henry Defreece, who falls on the autism spectrum and is sensitive to loud sounds. "It makes me feel all crazy because I can't stand that noise.”

Henry isn't the only one.

Thousands of people are hypersensitive to noise, smells, visuals and touch. These are just a few of the triggers people with autism deal with daily.

However, this holiday season, just for a moment, Henry was able to escape some of those triggers and volunteer for The Salvation Army--which his mom says is a gift within itself.

"You never know what to expect--whether it's carts coming by or bells ringing,” said Kourtney Defreece. “So having an opportunity as a mom brings my anxiety level down too because I’m not constantly worried about how this is impacting him."

The Autism Action Partnership and The Salvation Army have teamed up for the second year in a row to bring awareness to autism, while still raising money for the overall cause.

"There’s individuals in our community every day that are experiencing in a different manner, but again not lesser or greater--just different--and still as equally as important and valuable to the community,” said Justin Dougherty, executive director at Autism Action Partnership.

Justin says it's not just for kids--it's for all people with autism to enjoy one of the holidays many staple traditions.

The Salvation Army is still looking for volunteer bell ringers this holiday season. If you’re interested, visit this website.