(SACRAMENTO)

This year’s UC Davis MIND Institute fall festival was very, very popular. So popular, in fact, that the free event “sold out” in less than a week. The annual community festival took place Friday, Oct. 22. It featured a drive-through trunk-or-treat for the second year in a row, due to COVID-19.

“I was surprised at the turnout, but very excited about it!” said Veronica Tuss, child life specialist at the MIND Institute who helped to plan the event. “We almost doubled our capacity this year from what we did last year, and we still sold out in the first week.”

The fall festival featured cars festively decorated with spider webs, balloons and cartoon characters, courtesy of the NorCal Challengers. Volunteers, including MIND Institute staff members, dressed in fun costumes and handed out treats and toys. The event is open to the public, and the format is a great fit for children with autism, ADHD, sensory challenges, or other neurodevelopmental disabilities.

“We’ve had great feedback about the drive-through. It allows kids to hang out in their cars and skip the large crowds, but they still end up with the same treats and goodies,” Tuss explained.

Family Time at the MIND

The festival is one of many “Family Time at the MIND” events throughout the year hosted by the MIND Institute’s child life team. These free, public events are for the whole family. They include movie and game nights, yoga and talent showcases.

“It’s a great way for us to give back to the community, as well as the children that we see here at the MIND Institute,” said Erin Roseborough, a MIND Institute child life specialist who created the fall festival several years ago. “We love to see the smiles on kids’ faces!”

Child life specialists are developmental experts who are trained to provide evidence-based interventions, such as therapeutic play and preparation for procedures to reduce fear, anxiety and pain for children.

The MIND Institute Child Life Department also offers a support group for siblings of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities or chronic health issues. The next session begins in January. For more information, email HS-mindchildlife@ucdavis.edu.