The Division of Physical Therapy, the UCF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, and UCF Athletics joined with Providing Autism Links and Support to host Black and Gold Activity Day on March 26 at UCF. The event was focused on providing children with activities and resources that enabled more inclusivity— a mutual goal of all entities involved.
The field day featured a variety of games and activities for children with a wide range of disabilities and their families, including relay races, track and field games, sports, yoga, bounce houses, and more. CARD harnessed its community connections to bring representatives from local support agencies to talk with parents about resources to help their children and family. More than 600 participants registered to come out to UCF to play.
Judith Samuels, program manager at UCF CARD, said community outreach events such as Black and Gold Activity Day not only provide a fun day out for families, but an opportunity for families to connect with each other, especially after the past few years which have restricted social activity.
“Many families and individuals have struggled and felt isolated during the pandemic,” Samuels says. “It was a challenging time for everyone, but especially those with children on the autism spectrum.”
Ashley Moore, a mother of two, appreciated UCF hosting the event and providing a place for her family to interact with each other.
“It’s just really nice to get out and do fun things like we used to,” Moore said.
Moore’s oldest child, 8-year-old Lillian, has autism and has been involved with UCF CARD for the past three years. The activity day provided a safe space for Lillian to play and explore with other children and families – an experience that can be challenging for the family.
“When you go to other events that aren’t as supportive or understanding to families with autism, there can be a sense of judgment or misunderstanding,” Moore says. “So, it’s great to have an inclusive space like this.”
Chloe Artrip and Zofia Haack, both second-year physical therapy students, led the charge to coordinate the event on behalf of the Division of Physical Therapy – an experience that they found enriching and rewarding.
“It’s all about building new memories for the families and getting the chance to participate in activities that they couldn’t do before,” says Artrip.
Physical therapy students focused on providing an array of activities for kids of all physical abilities to encourage and promote regular physical activity. This included activities such as football, soccer, yoga, a miniature obstacle course, blowing and chasing bubbles and more. Lots of praise was given to all children to encourage participation.
Caroline Daly, who spearheaded planning and collaboration for CARD was thrilled with the results of the collaborative event and that so many families enjoyed the day. “We were so impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of the DPT students,” Daly said. “All the kids had a great time.”
“To join together on this was definitely a big help with basically starting over again, but this won’t be the last time this event takes place,” Haack says. “We’ll be back!”