Oklahoma City family fun is here for every family this fall, including those who have children with special needs or are considered on the spectrum. There's no shortage of worthy causes in our area, I'm coming to notice. Social issues like hunger that affects the very old, the very young and adults in-between is also becoming more and more apparent within our community here in Central Oklahoma.
My sons are 11, 6, 3 and 6 months and although none of them are in special needs categories at this time, I think it's important to raise them with awareness of those who aren't experiencing what we categorize as "typical development." Knowing that hunger exists right here among our neighbors and schoolmates is also an important part of cultivating gratitude and awareness and just not taking so much for granted.
My oldest child started sixth grade at a public school this year after spending his elementary years at a private academy and part of that decision was also finding out more about the diversity around us. Meeting the members of are society who represent families unlike ours and are differently-abled is part of growing up, especially as opportunities for those individuals expand to help them be more visible within our community.
Pumpkin patches, outdoor events like fall festivals and seasonal things to do stand out as every family is trying to enjoy this beautiful autumn. Perfect weather also contributes to those opportunities to get Instagrammable photos and genuinely enjoy everything that's going on. This weekend looks ideal to get out and see what's around us, with no rain in the forecast. Where we choose to spend our time and money can make the day's fun last more than just an afternoon by having those dollars put to work long past this fall.
Whether you have children with special needs or just want to support the special needs community, here are two fall-themed festivals to know about:
– Wings Annual Fall Festival and Pumpkin Patch: Families who have adult children with special needs created Wings as an organization that seeks to connect children with disabilities to each other and to the larger society, with a program that features daily interaction from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. four days a week after their kids graduate/age out of school. The group also seeks out ways they can work, be productive and keep learning. Wings hosts various events throughout the year but its fall festival stands out as a way to interact with the community. Activities like pony rides, a petting zoo, a corn maze, hayrides and a bounce house are included in the $5 per person admission; kids 2 and under are free. Pumpkins are also available for purchase. Wings Annual Fall Festival and Pumpkin Patch is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting this weekend, Sept. 28 through Oct. 21 in Edmond. Don't worry about brining enough cash. Credit cards are also accepted, which is something I always worry about when going out with my sons. Two touch-a-truck events are also happening on-site Oct. 13 and Oct. 20. I can see how parents' dedication to this event and all that Wings fosters for their children is a labor of love and I look forward to visiting in a few weeks.
– Myriad Botanical Gardens' Pumpkinville Sensory Night: All the standout features of Pumpkinville like fall displays, scarecrows, crafts and activities, without the music and enjoyed in a smaller group are the appeal to this event, which takes place Friday, Oct. 5 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Accompanying parents are admitted to the event without charge. It's free for members. Non-member admission is $12 and it's hosted in the Children's Garden. I can see how a designated date and time could make all the difference in having children feel welcome if they might otherwise be overwhelmed by the experience. Families should pre-register to help event organizers better plan on crowd control.
Last month, MetroFamily featured the Filling Tummies Bus, which a local mom coordinates to help address hunger wherever it lives, which could be described as an invisible problem because it's actually here living in our same cul-de-sacs without us knowing. I was unaware of how acute and how prevalent hunger really is until a related incident brought it to my attention last year during a school field trip.
Here are two events dedicated to doing something about this issue:
– EdFest 2018: Edmond Mobile Meals's upcoming EdFest on Friday night, Oct. 12 is free to the public but funds collected benefit senior nutrition, which is the organization's main focus. Live music, face painting, costumed characters and other activities are featured as part of the event, besides food and beer for purchase. Enter to win five Kidszone wristbands to get into the bounce houses and carnival games without charge. All events take place in downtown Edmond, with kids' activities in the Festival Marketplace Pavilion. I have seen first-hand how Edmond Mobile Meals makes a difference in the social wellbeing of elderly people here in Edmond and am happy to go out that evening to support what they're doing.
– Rock the Block Touch-a-Truck Community Event: Dolese Brothers Company is hosting a come-and-go event at 14th and Broadway in Oklahoma City from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 13 that also has free admission but all funds collected from donations will go to the Regional Food Bank and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. There's also a quiet hour from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. for children who prefer to see the trucks up close without the noise. My sons and I plan to attend; we really can't get enough trucks in this household of all boys and it's definitely for an important cause.
Find all our Fall Fun Guides to plan your pumpkin patch season. As for our family, I know where we'll be getting our pumpkins this year and we'll have a great time doing it. These four children are watching how we choose to spend our time and money and there are fall events around like the four recapped above that help us as much as we could possibly help anyone else.
No matter what you do this fall, I hope you enjoy the experience in the community we share.