By Chris Bavender
The annual Lion’s Club Fall Festival will kick off soon, but not before a special group of people has a chance to experience it as VIPs on Sept. 11.
“The VIP carnival is for kids of all ages with special needs who are our ‘Very Important People’ guests in Lions Park,” said Leigh Ann Akard, who organized the VIP night. “The goal of this event is to provide special needs families a friendly environment where kids can be kids’ and enjoy the American tradition of carnivals.”
Akard said the carnival is a stress-free event without the emotional and physical drain on parents and caregivers who might “worry if their loved one will fit in or if they can physically cope in a chaotic environment.”
“It is totally free so that no additional financial burden is placed on the family whose goal should be simply to enjoy a family night out,” she said. “Participants will leave Lions Park with a feeling of having fun, but more importantly, feeling like they belonged.”
The evening includes not only fun and smiles, but plenty of rides. In addition to dinner for the guest and their immediate family or caregivers, attendees receive two wristbands for unlimited free access to all rides in the carnival, train rides and games.
Other favorites of the event, Akard said, include entertainment in the gazebo, barrel train rides and bounce houses. There is also an opportunity to visit with mascots, police officers and firefighters in the park.
“We also have groups and other not-for-profits there to talk about the resources that are out there for those with special needs,” she said. “Sometimes when you get a diagnosis, you get so focused on finding places with information on that one special need, so this a way to find resources all in one place.”
Akard said she’s received many messages from past attendees about how much the night means to their families.
“I received an email from one gal I had been messaging with and she said she had thought her family had a conflict for that night so she made everyone change their plans to do this,” she said. “This means so much to them and it is our privilege to put this together for them to come and be our guest.”
To learn more about the VIP carnival, visit www.facebook.com/vipcarnival.
Read more about the Zionsville Fall Festival here.