By Faran Fagen
Therapy dogs, a petting zoo, and tents from autism-friendly organizations such as Parkland Buddy Sports will adorn the grassy fields of Pine Trails Park to bring together a community for a cause that affects so many.
Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day returns on Saturday, April 8, from 9 a.m. – noon at the Pine Trails Park Amphitheatre. It’s a dynamic family fun event with food vendors, contests, games, and entertainment.
Todd DeAngelis, City of Parkland spokesperson, said the event’s purpose is to create a welcoming, inclusive environment that is informative and raises awareness. “We want to have an atmosphere where those on the spectrum can celebrate their unique strengths and abilities, and their families can be equipped with resources they may need as well.”
Kids of all abilities can etch their names on superhero capes, configure bead projects, and participate in various sensory-friendly activities.
“It’s special because we’re going to accept everybody and include everyone and have a diverse event for our community,” said Natalie Espinosa, new Special Events Coordinator for the City of Parkland.
There will be a variety of vendors on hand, such as early intervention programs and Rising Tide Car Wash.
Here’s a list of some of the vendors that will be at the event: Broward Health- CDTC (Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center), Broward Health, Continuum Behavioral Health, Equine-Assisted Therapies of South Florida, Extravagant Travels by Melda, Just for Kidz Therapy, KIDnection, Love Serving Autism, Rising Tide Car Wash, Schelin Family Chiropractic, Broward County Parks & Recreation, and Special Populations, Vichys Art Inc.
According to DeAngelis, Parkland was one of the first cities to be designated an autism-friendly city by the University of Miami – Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities program.
City officials worked for years to earn the honor. From library workers to BSO-Parkland deputies, school resource officers, and parks and recreation employees, staff received extra training on working with individuals with autism and their families.
- Faran Fagen, who teaches high school journalism, graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Journalism degree and from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in Education. He's worked at The Palm Beach Post, SunSentinel, and MLB.com. He lives in Coral Springs with his wife and two children. Oh, and his three dogs -- who all think that they're his favorite.
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