Regardless of whether they were munching on pizza, playing around in the gym or creating their own works of art, one group of kids was full of smiles and laughter Saturday afternoon as they participated in the Special Day for Special Kids event at the Memorial Park Community Center.
The program was specifically designed and put on for children with physical or developmental disabilities and their families.
Renee Ensor, programs coordinator at Memorial Park, said the event was free and open for anyone with special needs. She said a lot of the advertising for the program was through area schools’ special-needs classes.
Victoria Touati was enjoying a slice of Mellow Mushroom pizza with her two children, Ryan, 8, and Nora, 5. Touati said she received a flier from her daughter’s school about the event and the family decided to check it out.
Usually cautious of taking Nora to certain events in the community, Touati said she had a good feeling about this particular program.
“This has been great. (It’s) something to do on a Saturday afternoon,” she said. “Certain types of events I tend to not want to bring her to because I’m not sure how she’s going to act or if she’s going to sit still, but I knew if I brought her here it would be fine however she acted. The fact that they’re doing these crafts is really nice, too. I would definitely come back for something like this. She enjoyed it.”
Attending the program with her mom, dad and brother, Savannah Hunter was focused on her artwork Saturday afternoon, as she thoughtfully painted a picture using a mix of red and green colors at the arts and crafts table.
Her mother, Elizabeth Hunter, said the family had participated in a similar event this past summer and decided to bring the family again Saturday.
“We’re always looking for things that we can do that Savannah can do as well,” Elizabeth said. “We’re very active in the special-needs community and so we’re always looking for new things that we can pass along to our friends as well.”
She added that attending a free event as a family is always a plus.
“I think people don’t understand how expensive things are when you have a special-needs kid,” Elizabeth said. “Living expenses are a lot different and so it’s nice that we can afford it. If it doesn’t work out, if she had a meltdown or if she didn’t like something when we were here, we wouldn’t be out $20.”
While the kids intermingled and played together during the event, parents also had a chance to talk and chat with other parents with similar households.
“I think there’s just a camaraderie with families with special-needs kids,” Elizabeth said. “There’s so many things that people don’t understand if you haven’t been there. It’s kind of an elite club. There’s just things that people don’t understand. It’s really nice to meet other families in situations like this that are in the community who also understand.”