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Mike Terry, Deseret News

NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah — What is a true warrior?

That is the question that 120 performers will answer for audiences in this year's South Davis Special Needs LDS Mutual production "Warriors of Light," set for Thursday, April 15, and Friday, April 16, at the Bountiful Regional Center (835 N. 400 E.) at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

"The special needs youth look forward to this production all year. It's the highlight of their year," said Derena Bell, the author and director of the program. "Even though it can be a lot of work and stressful at times, the end result is a lot of fun and joy."

The production begins with a young mother teaching her children from the scriptures, using examples from ancient and modern times. The program will include five scenes depicting the 2,000 sons of Helaman, Noah the ark builder, Queen Esther and her court, the pioneers and missionaries.

Bell said the play draws parallels between those warriors and the special needs youths and teaches how to draw strength from those who have come before.

Those participating are limited by mental, emotional or physical disabilities and range in age from teenager to late adulthood. The South Davis Special Needs Mutual encompasses 23 stakes from North Salt Lake to Kaysville. The South Davis Special Needs Mutual has performed a play annually for almost 40 years. In addition to the 120 participants, Bell said there are around 50 adult and youth volunteers who help behind the scenes.

"They (the performers) are able to do what they love so much, get on the stage, wear beautiful costumes, act out their roles and make people smile and laugh," Bell said.

Assisting Bell is co-director Meredith Gibson, Tammy Huefner (costumes), Bob Bell (technical director) and David Breitenbeker (set design).

When the curtain goes up on Thursday, the crew will pause to remember two who were unable to participate due to health issues, Wendy Wood and Samantha Kunz.

"We send them our love," Bell said.

Bell wrote the program over several months, and rehearsals started in February. She expresses her sincere thanks to all who have helped, including the Regional Center missionaries Craig and Marilyn Lavender.

The North Davis Special Needs Mutual is also scheduled for Thursday, April 15, and Friday, April 16, at Layton High School at 7 p.m. Admission is free. More than 140 special needs performers will perform a program celebrating the 25th anniversary of special needs mutual in North Davis County, which includes 23 stakes from Kaysville to the Davis County line.

More than 50 volunteers will assist behind the scenes, while Nolan Evans and Tom Housley direct the show.