On Saturday, the UC Davis MIND Institute became another world – with hanging vines, giant totems and live rain forest critters – to the delight of about 900 children and their families.
“Passport to Adventure” was this year’s theme for the annual MIND Institute thank-you party, an event to acknowledge families for their research study participation. Research is essential to the MIND Institute’s mission to understand the causes of and develop effective diagnoses, treatments, preventions and ultimately, cures for neurodevelopmental disorders.
Attendees collected passport stamps by visiting thematic stations – rainforest, desert, wetlands, space, mountains, grasslands, polar region, ocean and undergrounds – decorated by MIND Institute faculty, staff and volunteers. Once completely full, passports could be traded in for prizes.
From a faux igloo and snow and crepe paper jellyfish dangling from the ceiling, to bugs and butterflies on display; each space was completely transformed.
“Faculty, staff and students worked tirelessly to make sure families enjoyed themselves and that all the activities were geared toward their children’s unique needs,” said Leonard Abbeduto, MIND Institute director. “This attention to detail reflects the expertise and commitment to families of everyone at the MIND Institute.”
This was the first thank-you party experience for Jasmin Loza, Alexis Padilla and their 4-year-old daughter, Janelle.
“We just walked in and we’re already enjoying ourselves,” said Padilla. “This is a huge gift to us.”
Entertainment included traditional Hawaiian and Bollywood dancing and musical performances and a wildlife education show with a furry lemur and kinkajou. Disney princesses and comic book superheroes greeted guests and posed for photos. A small train took passengers around the parking lot in the cool, fresh air.
The beloved party has become a family tradition for many, like Andrea Daily, whose 12-year-old daughter, Aubrey, looks forward to attending every year.
“It’s a highlight of our holiday season,” said Daily. “When we come here it just feels safe. Everyone is so welcoming and everyone here just gets it. She (Aubrey) can be who she wants to be.”
Event sponsors included SMUD, PRIDE Industries, Autism Spectrum Therapies and Arden Fair Mall/Macerich.