In October, the Rotaract Club of Victoria, along with the Canucks Autism Network (CAN) and the Rotary Club of Victoria-Harbourside, helped with an annual Halloween event put on by Galey Farms in Victoria.
The farm sets aside time for families with children on the autism spectrum to visit and participate in their Halloween event in a sensory-appropriate environment. The children and their families attend without charge and before the general public is allowed in. Parents aren’t concerned about their children, who can just enjoy themselves.
The families can ride on the train through Halloween decorations that are reminiscent of amusement parks (the staff member at Galey Farm, who is responsible for much of it, used to work at Disney). They can go on a hayride out to a pumpkin patch, where each kid can pick a pumpkin to take home. They can get lost (and found) in a corn maze, carve pumpkins, and have all kinds of spooky fun.
This year, almost 300 families attended. They were helped by six volunteers from CAN, 11 from Harbourside, and 10 from Rotaract – all of whom were kept busy!
The volunteers started at 6:30 a.m. (on a Sunday!), and they did this with big smiles. They greeted the very excited families – especially the kids. Some parents mentioned that their kids had been waiting and talking about the event all year since the last time and couldn’t wait to go in. Volunteers directed the families to the train, usually their first stop, and helped them get on board. One young boy loved the train ride so much that he rode it four times in a row! His enthusiasm brought smiles to all our faces.
Families also appreciated the volunteers out in the pumpkin patch. Those volunteers spent their time helping the kids pick their pumpkins and taking pictures for the families. The families told us that this small gesture of taking photos is very meaningful; it provides them with reminders of these special moments. They look at the photos all year – and for years after.
This event is a favourite for everyone – the staff at Galey Farms, all the volunteers, and, most of all, the families. Seeing how excited the kids were and how much joy this event brings to them and their families is incredibly fun and rewarding.
The volunteers and the families will be back again next year!
Report from the Rotaract Club of Victoria