Carnival lowers barriers for autistic kids

By Sissy Courtney Rambler Newspapers

The Woodallkids Carnival featuring balloons, animals, games, face painting, food and prizes was a fun-raiser more than a fund-raiser although monies raised will support programs and services provided by the Brent Woodall Foundation to families affected by autism and developmental disabilities. The event was held May 4.

Children learn and play at the Brent Woodall Carnival

Children learn and play at the Woodallkids Carnival

“This is one of our favorite events because our families get to interact in activities they normally wouldn’t get to have an opportunity to do,” said Tracy Pierce Bender, founder and director of the Woodall Foundation. “It makes them feel like typical kids. They can bring their family, bring their friends, and everybody has a good time.

“All of the activities are geared toward the kids’ success. Sometimes they’re made to challenge the kids in some way. There is definitely a therapeutic model to everything. We don’t advertise that to the kids. Everything here is to work on their skills while they’re having fun.”

Bender said they are always looking for ways to help the children grow.

“Last year, we did the sand and water, and that was the first time some of them had worked with those two mediums at the same time,” Bender said. “The parents loved it. Then, last summer, we did a whole themed camp on beaches, and that was super helpful for our families to be able to go to the beach last summer. One of the families had their first beach vacation after they saw their child was going to be okay with the sand.

“Getting their faces painted is something some of them would never (ordinarily) allow. We really encourage them to do it while they’re here. They really know their therapist, and everything is familiar. So we’ve had parents say later ‘We went to a birthday party, and they let them paint their face’ which they had never done before.”

From Waxahachie, Gina and Paul Robinson, the owners of God’s Little Critters, brought some animals for the children to pet.

“It’s really fun seeing the kids interact with the animals,” Bender said. “To see them connecting and loving on the animals has been really sweet.”

The Robinsons donated their time to the Woodall kids Carnival.

“The animals seem to calm kids,” Ms. Robinson said. “They just lighten up; it’s so exciting for them. This is what the animals do; they’re here to serve.”

The Woodall Foundation has the carnival every spring, and this year’s event was part of the 10th anniversary for the organization.

“It’s not as much a fund raiser as it is to get our kids together, to get people in the community to have just a really good time.” said Carley Waltenburg, assistant director. “A lot of our clients come and bring friends and family members. It gets bigger and bigger every year.”

To learn more about the Brent Woodall, a September 11th victim, and the Brent Woodall Foundation, please click here.

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