Arizona Rotary volunteers at the annual Special Day for Special Kids.
Saturday, March 23, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club, with the help of the Scottsdale Unified School District and Raising Special Kids, held its 28th annual Special Day for Special Kids. This event is the highlight of the year for thousands of youngsters with special needs and brings together families from throughout the valley for a fun-filled day of festivities at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park.
“Special Day for Special Kids has grown into the Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club’s signature event with an estimated 3,000 people in attendance this year”, says David Lewis, Rotary Chairman who started this as a community service project with just a few dozen special needs kids in attendance in 1984. It has blossomed into a wonderful event that includes the entire valley. Life is far from a walk in the park for the families who are catering to the daily demands of caring for children with special mental and physical needs. In fact, simply going to the park can present unique challenges. This is why, for some, this day is the only day of the year where these kids can come to the park and not feel ostracized, different or left out.
This year, the children were able to enjoy train and carousel rides, carnival games and booths, face painting, clowns and a petting zoo as well as hot dogs, chips, ice cream, and beverages. There were appearances by the Phoenix Suns Gorilla, Ronald McDonald, the Cardinal’s Cheerleaders, the ASU Sun Devil’s Dance Team, Miss Scottsdale 2013 as well as representatives from Liberty Wildlife, the Scottsdale Fire Department, the Scottsdale Police Department’s K-9 unit, Boy Scout troop #649 and many other organizations. The children go wild with the appearances from ‘Snow White, Buzz Light Year, Woody and Scooby Do’. These costumes are donated by Mardi Gras and worn by the SUSD Service Learning Kids, Interact kids as well as our own exchange student from Denmark (Josephine). This event is completely free for the children and to make that possible, many donations were received from Albertson’s, Reddy Ice, Gatorade, Bar-S Foods, BHHS Legacy Foundation and most of the monetary donations were made at the golf tournament and raffle the week before the event.
This event has been made possible over the last 28 years by the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park and the Mechanical and Railroad Society who donated the railroad park as well as the train and carousel rides. “McCormick-Stillman Railroad park is the perfect venue for this event because the park is completely handicapped accessible and friendly”, explains Lewis. “Our Rotary Club has helped to add several ramps at the park through the years (as well as from prodding from the RR Parks founder – Guy Stillman), and donated money for the two handicapped accessible train cars (cost of $12,000 each). Hopefully, families will return to the park on their own once they have been here.
Lewis (who took over as Chairman from Dan McAuliffe) says the Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club is grateful to have so many dedicated people who come out year after year to help. “They are all heroes to us! This is a wonderful way to bring together the entire community of Scottsdale and really rally around these special kids. There’s something magical about seeing the smiles and joy on the faces of these children, and watching them laughing, playing and having a great time. Each year, as the event winds down, we have families saying, ‘Please do this again next year!”.