Group dressed as frozen characters

MIND Institute thanks research families with winter wonderland event

(SACRAMENTO)

Each year, hundreds of people take part in research studies at the UC Davis MIND Institute. These families help to advance the understanding and treatment of the challenges associated with autism, ADHD, fragile X syndrome, Down syndrome and more.

21-year-old boy leans out of a car window to hi-five someone dressed as Chewbacca.
21-year-old Jason Henderson hi-fives one of the costumed volunteers. His mom, Laura, says he looks forward to the thank-you event every year.

On Saturday, the MIND Institute thanked them with a Winter Wonderland drive-through display that featured inflatable characters, twinkling lights and volunteers in festive costumes. The event served as an alternative to the traditional in-person thank-you party.

“I love to see the smiles on our research participants’ faces, whether it’s waving through a car window or hopefully next time, in person,” said Erin Roseborough, a MIND Institute child life specialist who helped to plan the event. “My favorite part is seeing families who have been in our research programs since they were very young. I’ve known some of them for nearly 20 years.”

One of those families is the Hendersons. Twenty-one-year-old Jason is on the autism spectrum and has been taking part in studies at the MIND Institute since he was 2 ½ years old. The thank-you event is an annual tradition.

“Jason looks forward to the party every year, as do we all,” said his mom, Laura Henderson. “It’s so refreshing to go to a place where your kid is accepted no matter how they’re behaving.”

It’s so rewarding for us to be a part of this and to help the researchers try to find things that will help our kids with autism.”Laura Henderson

That’s a key reason the MIND Institute holds the party, along with other “Family Time at the MIND” events such as a fall festival, movie nights and craft sessions.

young boy cuddles with a blanket
This research patient loved the cuddly hand-made blanket that he received at the thank-you party.

“The highlight of my day is a high-five and a smile from Jason every year,” Roseborough said.

Staff from each research lab with research participants took part in the event to show their gratitude. There are currently 23 studies at the MIND Institute that involve human participants, as well as several additional studies that will begin enrolling again once COVID-19 restrictions ease.

“These families give of their time and energy to contribute to research that helps all people affected by neurodevelopmental disabilities,” said MIND Institute Director Leonard Abbeduto. “We continue to be inspired by their commitment and generosity.”

These families give their time and energy to contribute to research that helps all people affected by neurodevelopmental disabilities. We continue to be inspired by their commitment and generosity.”Leonard Abbeduto, MIND Institute Director

This was the MIND Institute’s 19th annual thank-you party. More than 200 families enjoyed the drive-through celebration, and each received a thank-you bag full of goodies, including a hand-made blanket, a gingerbread house kit and other treats. Each child also received a stuffed animal.

star wars figures

“It was a big hit!” said Veronica Tuss, a MIND Institute child life specialist who helped put the event together. “We were fortunate to be able to hold this modified event to thank the many families who provided meaningful and impactful information for research studies. They help us to provide the best, evidence-based care possible.”

That’s a big part of the draw, notes Laura Henderson. “It’s so rewarding for us to be a part of this and to help the researchers try to find things that will help our kids with autism,” she said.

The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif. was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where families, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and potential prevention of challenges associated with neurodevelopmental disabilities. The institute has major research efforts in autism, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome. More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series, including previous presentations in this series, is available on the Web at mindinstitute.ucdavis.edu.

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