Games, gifts, Santa and more were all a part of the Families with Special Needs Holiday Party hosted by the Airman and Family Readiness Center (A&FRC) at the Base Youth Center on Dec. 5.
The event, open to all active duty, guard, reserves, retired, Team Hill civilians and their family members, was specially planned “to provide a safe and comfortable environment for families with children with special needs and their siblings to enjoy the holiday experience away from large crowds,” said Tammy Custer, Exeptional Family Member Program specialist at the A&FRC. “This allows the families to network with other families dealing with similar challenges.”
Children had the opportunity to participate in Special Olympics games and drills, Santa visited with children and took photos, craft tables were set up for projects, delicious snacks were available, and each child was able to visit “Toyland” to pick out a toy to take home.
“For many families with special needs, this is their chance to have the whole family out together for photos and fun,” said Custer. “We provide appropriate gifts to special-needs children and their siblings. These families tend not to go to large holiday events because they are concerned others may not take care around their fragile child, or understand the behavior of an autistic child. This is an event that removes that fear and gives the whole family an opportunity to get family time as well as connect with other families in an environment without pressure.”
Throughout the afternoon, prize drawings also took place, and squeals of delight echoed in the gym as Mike the Magician performed tricks and illusions for the crowd.
Annie Borowski, whose husband is with the Air Force Life Cycle Managment Center on base, attended with her family and enjoyed the day’s activities: “We really enjoyed the event and truly appreciate that there was such an opportunity for my son Nate, who has autism. It was low-key and low-stress, in a relaxed setting where he could actually enjoy himself. He got to see a magic show, do crafts, eat cookies, get toys and visit Santa. I hope they continue to do this yearly.”
The event provides lots of fun and joy for families, but what Custer and all those involved hope everyone takes away is “that they (families with special-needs children) are not alone in their challenges and that Hill AFB is looking out for them.”
For more information about events like this one, call the A&FRC at 801-777-4681.