The lights at Sky Zone were a little dimmer and the music turned down from its usual blast, but for many kids, it was the most fun they’ve ever had.
Newly founded nonprofit Autism Solace Inc. rented out Sky Zone Trampoline Park on April 18 to host its first ever event allowing kids with autism to enjoy the attractions without the risk of judgment or sensory overload. The kids and their siblings were able to play with each other on trampolines, obstacle courses and more.
Autism Solace co-founders Katrina Ilondior and Latoya McKnight created the nonprofit to provide support to families by hosting free sensory-sensitive social events. They raised enough funds to sponsor 100 kids on the autism spectrum to jump and eat pizza for free. Most of the funds for the event were raised through GoFundMe, they said.
Ilondior serves as president and CEO of the nonprofit and has three kids, one of whom is on the autistic spectrum.
“When you go places, you don’t want to make a fuss, and it’s just amazing to come to a place where seeing a kid flopping their hands is just OK,” she said. “Everybody else is flapping their hands, and it just feels typical.”
Ilondior and McKnight met years ago as coworkers in Philadelphia, though McKnight now lives down in Georgia. They bonded over raising children on the autistic spectrum, and decided they wanted to be voices and pillars in the autistic community by forming Autism Solace. After encountering a mother struggling with her child who had just been diagnosed with autism and not knowing what to do, Ilondior decided to form the nonprofit.
“We want to be a voice for every child, no matter where they are,” said McKnight, whose family drove 13 hours from Georgia for the event.
That includes siblings, who can often feel like they’re forgotten, McKnight and Ilondior said.
“Me having two other sons and my oldest is severely autistic, I always make a point to make sure they don’t feel forgotten,” Ilondior said. “They’re so involved and they know so much about autism.”
During the event, a mom approached McKnight and said her son’s birthday was the next day and she didn’t have any plans on how to celebrate it.
“She said thank you so much for having this because my other kids are so happy and he’s so happy and it just makes us feel normal,” McKnight said.
Autism Solace plans to host more events in the future, whether in Philadelphia, Georgia or anywhere else. An event in Neshaminy Park is in early planning stages to happen in the summer.
Some lucky parents at the event received Wawa gift cards in a surprise raffle. Parents also received information on autism-friendly area resources.
Autism Solace is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization founded in September 2018. Follow on Facebook and visit its website at www.autismsolace.com.