Potter Park Zoo held its 2nd Annual Sensory Friendly Campground Dinner Aug. 4 as part of its FALCONERS program. FALCONERS is in its seventh year at Potter Park and provides low-sensory events each month for individuals and families with unique challenges such as autism and developmental disabilities.
After the success of last year’s campground dinner, coordinator Mariah Martinez was happy to provide an accessible, cost-free option for FALCONERS participants.
“We started this annual dinner last year and decided to have the dinner outside as a Covid-19 precaution,” she said. “Although a lot has changed since last summer, we still wanted to take those same precautions. The event was successful and gave our FALCONERS families quality time together and a night free from cooking at home. We appreciate our families so much and it is just another way to give back to them for supporting us.”
The dinner included free meals provided by Outback Steakhouse, along with beverages and a dessert option. In attendance were families and groups from across the Mid-Michigan area. In total, 142 meals were given out to FALCONERS families, who were able to stay on-site and eat with not only their families but other families as well. There was the option to take the food home as well. Helen Skyles, mother of two FALCONERS participants, expressed her gratitude for Thursday’s event.
“The best days are family days at the zoo with my kids,” said said. “The all-inclusive environment and welcoming
staff and volunteers are absolutely amazing and are the reason we continue to participate in the FALCONERS program.”
Outback Steakhouse in Lansing and Jackson worked together to donate and serve cheeseburgers, broccoli and mashed potatoes. Lansing Owner Joe Laisure, Catering Manager Jacob Gonzalez and Jackson Senior Manager Derick Zanger were at the event to cook and serve the meals.
“I am so happy to be able to be part of such an amazing organization. We love being able to deliver great food to all of the smiling faces whether it be a snowy and cold drive thru or a warm and sunny cook out! Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve our community in a unique way,” said Zanger.
“Outback is proud to help such a great program and we believe in taking care of our community. It is rooted in myself as a person and is part of our company,” said Laisure.
This event would not have been possible without Potter Park’s incredible volunteers! Our volunteers were onsite checking participants in, helping with beverages and desserts and educating everyone on our animals that are in the zoo!