Families in the disabled and special needs community are taking notice of the city’s efforts to bring in more recreational opportunities that include them.
Keller resident Ashley Hearn and her family participated in the Feb. 10 fun run called Walk, Push, Run, which is the city’s first big event for the Sense of Adventure initiative to provide more inclusive opportunities for families with disabilities and special needs. Proceeds will benefit the Keller ISD Special Olympics.
“The fact that we have this opportunity for our daughter to be a part of something just means so much to our family,” said Hearn, whose 3-year-old daughter was born with hydrocephalus and is unable to support her head, which causes her to remain laying down or a reclined position.
“Every year, we strategize to make sure that we are serving everyone in our community,” Keller Parks and Recreation Manager Jennifer Basham said. “We have known for a few years that we were falling short in the inclusion category, so this year we decided to make it our No. 1 priority with new programming. That’s how ‘A Sense of Adventure’ was born.”
The city’s push for providing more inclusive activities for families with special needs is refreshing, Hearn said.
“It’s great that they’re starting to do this,” Hearn said. “The recognition for special needs kids and their families coming from our own community is amazing.”
Having events carved out for those with disabilities is very helpful and encouraging for her family, Keller resident Colette Grossman said.
“I am quite proud that Keller has noticed the special needs children in our area and decided to this,” Grossman said.
The city will also offer a sensory egg hunt as part of the Spring Egg Scramble at noon on March 24, for pre-registered families who need a quieter and calmer environment.
“Participants with special needs have always been welcome to hunt eggs as part of their age group, but the rushing crowd and noise can be hard for children who are extra sensitive to those stimuli,” Basham said. “The new hunt will offer those children and their families a better way to celebrate with us.”
Grossman’s son, Jaxson, 7, has four benign brain tumors, one of which is on his optic nerve. He has had two years of chemotherapy and is now legally blind in his left eye. On top of those disabilities, Jaxson also has sensory issues, and a genetic disorder called brittle bones disease, she said.
Attending community events has been challenging in the past, Grossman said.
“We have been to the egg scramble in the past but left with Jaxson in tears,” she said. “He was not able to see or get any eggs.”
Grossman said having a sectioned off event for those with disabilities is great.
“Special needs children face many difficulties day to day and strive to be normal” she said.
The Sense of Adventure initiatives, she said, “makes them feel a part of the community as well,” Grossman said.
The added time slot for families with disabilities is also ideal, said Hearn.
“Special needs families are more considerate to other families with special needs,” she said. “It’s an easier environment for our family to be in versus a non-specific kid event. I feel like our daughter is less judged, and people are more open and friendly and understanding.”
In addition to the city’s new special event lineup, the Parks and Recreation Department will also close select parks to the general public one night each month and reserve them for those with special needs to enjoy from 3-6 p.m.