“Special Needs Night Offers Pure Magic at Clementon Park/Splash World”
Pure magic filled the air when Clementon Park/Splash World flung its gates open for a recent first-time event for the special needs community.
From the first instant, the park was flowing with old-fashioned family fun and the opportunity to create lasting memories for the nearly 400 guests, and 25 volunteers, who attended Tuesday’s fundraiser for the Bucks County-based Autism Cares Foundation.
The well-organized event, [on Tuesday, August 23], perfectly combined the ideals of a caring heart and the importance of deep community involvement. The invitation went out to anyone in the Tri-State area who has a loved one with special needs.
The magical night was sponsored by Clementon Park and 95.7 BEN FM in order to reach out to a broad sector of the special needs community and to benefit the Autism Cares Foundation, a non-profit that provides programs, events and life enrichment opportunities for children, teens, and adults with autism and their families.
Clementon Park was closed to the public from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., for the special event, and offered free parking, discounted tickets and will donate $5 from each ticket sold to the Autism Cares Foundation.
The families who attended said they were thrilled by the opportunity to enjoy the theme park and cool off at the water park, without the long lines, massive crowds, and other more “typical” rules. The families also praised the 25 Autism Cares Foundation volunteers for being so “hands-on” while helping the special needs guests.
Elizabeth Podolski, of Egg Harbor City, N.J., brought her five children and two nieces, ages 4 to 16, to the Clementon Park event. The loving mother and aunt said she brought her family because of her 10-year-old daughter, Kady, a non-verbal fifth-grader.
“The moment my daughter walked in and took a glimpse of the water park she was all smiles. She saw the tubes and water slides and her smile became bigger,” said Podolski, a third grade teacher. “It’s so nice to have a night for families with special needs. It feels less crowded and more welcoming, so we are so glad we decided to make the trip.”
All of the guests and family members, who came from near and far, splashed around the water park, played the carnival games, and took rides on the Vintage Carousel, the Giant Ferris Wheel, Ring of Fire, Neptune’s Revenge log flume, the Sea Dragon, the Victorian Railway, and the many others.
They also enjoyed ice cream, funnel cakes, popcorn, pizza, chicken fingers, crab fries, and other treats, of which the sweet smells permeated the nighttime air.
“I spent the evening walking through the park talking to all of the smiling participants and their family members, and the enthusiasm was truly infectious,” said Kim Smith, Autism Cares Foundation Managing Director. “I am so proud to be part of such a wonderful organization, and working with such caring and giving groups of people from ClementonPark and BEN FM.”
Everyone was pleased by how friendly and supportive the staff at the theme park was during the event. Not only that, they were involved in two special training sessions conducted at the park by Beth Garrison, the Autism Cares Foundation’s CEO of Adult Services.
Margie Ford, Director of Sales and Marketing for Clementon Park, approached John Riebel, her media representative at BEN FM, because the theme park was looking for a way to give back to the community. Riebel reached out to talk show host Marilyn Russell, and the partnership between the park, the radio station, and Autism Cares Foundation was forged. Soon after, the park’s first special needs event was born.
“We are so excited to have the opportunity to host the children and their families, and we are looking forward to having Autism Cares Foundation back every year,” Ford said. “We wanted the
participants to go to a place where they could enjoy their time with their families, and just have fun – and we are thrilled that this is exactly what happened.”
All of the partners involved were so proud of the special needs event, and everything that it accomplished and are already looking forward to planning next summer’s event.
“All you have to do is open your eyes and see all of the magical moments happening right before you,” said James P. Brown, Group Sales Manager for Greater Media Philadelphia, the company that operates 95.7 BEN FM and other radio stations. “This was a great opportunity for the community to enjoy a perfect night at the park!”
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