When her son was diagnosed with autism, Trista Fergerson didn’t fret about it; she went to work.

Fergerson and two other mothers of children on the autism spectrum started gathering in a makeshift mom support group. It has grown over the years into what is now known as Perfect Fit Foundation of Southwest Kansas.

"Amongst the three of us, we wanted to tell people what autism is," she said. "Before our kids were diagnosed, we didn’t know anything about it. We put together a 5K race, Run for Autism, to bring awareness. We just completed our third this past April. In the fall, I started exploring this foundation as a legal entity. We can give donations, and people can donate to us."

It’s continuing to grow, and the donations it receives will go toward great things for people in southwest Kansas. That’s how Dodge City Roundup Rodeo is involved.

"What Trista and this foundation are doing already is amazing, and I think there are other ways we can help while growing awareness about special needs," said Dr. R.C. Trotter, president of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, through Sunday, Aug. 4, at Roundup Arena.

"Our Thursday performance will be Exceptional Rodeo Night, and we are going to have an exceptional rodeo for people with special needs starting at 5:30 that evening."

One of the goals of the foundation is to be a support group for those who have special needs children, to raise awareness for kids and adults with special needs. Fergerson has also begun work with a clinical director about creating a therapy center, since one doesn’t exist in the region.

"The foundation will own and operate Perfect Fit Therapy Clinic," she said.

But there’s so much more that the foundation wants to do and has been doing in addition to Run for Autism.

"We wanted to put on events for folks with special needs," Fergerson said. "We have a Special Olympics recognition night at Dodge City sporting events. We hold monthly Special Needs Night at Long Branch Lagoon. We are calling our night at the rodeo exceptional rodeo to follow in the direction of what they do at the NFR."

Every year at the National Finals Rodeo, volunteers, contestants and other rodeo personnel provide people with special needs an event all their own. They can ride horses, rope and enjoy a little cowboy lifestyle while wearing specialized shirts, a hat and a bandana.

"Roundup is giving tickets to families of individuals with special needs, that way we can get special needs families to the rodeo," she said. "That evening, we are going to show a video of the exceptional rodeo and have some information for Boyd (Polhamus) to read about it.

"Lopp Motors has donated a kids Jeep Power Wheel, so we are going to have a raffle throughout Dodge City Days to give that way. It’s another source of income for the foundation and fundraising opportunities for us. We will do the drawing after the Sunday night performance right before the buckle presentations."