Potter Park Zoo Hosts Second Drive-Through Dinner for FALCONERS Families

Potter Park Zoo held a free drive-through dinner event Feb. 26 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.

Going into the third year of the pandemic, coordinator Mariah Martinez was happy to provide an accessible, cost-free option for FALCONERS participants:

“Another year has gone by and we are all still dealing with the pandemic. Every time we think the end is near, something new arises. We would love to do this dinner like we did in January 2020 where families were able to eat inside the zoo, restaurant style. With the spike in numbers we decided to keep it as a drive through for the second year in a row. It is a great way to provide a night free of cooking for our families where they can all enjoy each other with no hassle of buying food or preparing it.”

The drive through included free meals provided by Outback Steakhouse, along with beverages and a goodie bag. In attendance were families and groups from across the Mid-Michigan area. In total, 150 meals were given out to FALCONERS families, who were able to stay warm in their cars as volunteers and staff brought food to their window. Donnesa McPherson, mother of two FALCONERS participants, expressed her gratitude for Saturday’s event:

“There is always something to look forward to at FALCONERS because of the hard work Mariah and the volunteers at Potter Park Zoo put into the planning and events! We enjoyed a free delicious meal from Outback Steakhouse. They had broccoli that anyone would eat. I say that because my children have only tried broccoli from Outback Steakhouse during this event! They even received a super fun LAUNCH drawstring bag that my children were so excited to receive. It had coupons, a coloring book, earbuds and a sensory pop-it toy! We are so thankful for all the wonderful activities and we cannot wait for the next FALCONERS event!!!”

Outback Steakhouse in Lansing and Jackson worked together to donate and serve chicken breast, broccoli and mashed potatoes. Jackson Manager Derick Zanger and Catering Manager Jacob Gonzalez were at the event to distribute the meals.

“We are always happy to be able to come out and interact with some great people! With everything going on it’s awesome to have the opportunity to provide a meal for these exceptional families,” said Zanger.

This event would not have been possible without Potter Park’s incredible volunteers! Other sponsors included the Capital Area District Libraries, LAUNCH Trampoline, Lingo Lab at MSU and Lansing Board of Water and Light, who donated fun materials for families to go home with. AAA agent Eduardo Martinez of East Lansing sponsored the beverage station. Potter Park Zoo is very grateful for all partners who made the FALCONERS drive-through dinner event possible.To find out more about the FALCONERS program and its upcoming events, visit or contact Mariah Martinez at / 517-342-2751.