Potter Park Zoo held a free drive-through dinner event Feb. 6 as part of its FALCONERS program. FALCONERS is in its sixth year at Potter Park, and provides low-sensory events each month for individuals and families with unique challenges such as autism and developmental disabilities.
With the pandemic making it difficult for families to spend a night out, Coordinator Mariah Martinez was happy to provide an accessible, cost-free option for FALCONERS participants:
“The pandemic has been tough on everyone and we wanted to show our appreciation to our FALCONERS families and their support for this program. Some families have been able to come to the zoo the past few months, but some families still haven’t, and this was a way they didn’t have to leave their car but could still get out of the house and have a fun night at home!”
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 (with one family even attending from Ohio!). 198 meals were given to a total of 45 families, who were able to stay warm in their cars as volunteers and staff brought food to their window. Joe and Sabrina Schneider, parents of a FALCONERS participant, expressed their gratitude for Saturday’s event:
“Like most people, we have had our own struggles throughout the pandemic. We were extremely touched that the FALCONERS and all the volunteers were still fighting to find a way to make the dinner event work. Despite their own challenges, they all rallied to make sure all the families received a nice meal and evening out. Thank you for the safe ‘break’ from our new normal. We are grateful for all of your kindness”.
Outback Steakhouse in Okemos donated chicken breast, pork tenderloin steaks, broccoli and mashed potatoes. They made sure to provide food that was gluten free and made accommodations to those with dairy allergies. Front house manager Derick Zanger and his staff even showed up to help out:
“The team here at Outback Steakhouse in Okemos and myself are very proud to be able to get out in our community and help those that need it. The drive-through event was awesome and kept everyone safe while still allowing for some awesome interactions! We look forward to working with Mariah and the FALCONERS event more in the future. I’m so grateful that we could we were able to make this event work”.
Other sponsors included the Lansing Board of Water and Light, who donated fun and educational materials for families to go home with, and AAA agent Eduardo Martinez of East Lansing, who sponsored the beverage station. Potter Park Zoo is very grateful for all partners who made the FALCONERS drive-through dinner event possible.
This was the second event of its kind, following an in-person dinner in 2020. You can read about it here: https://potterparkzoo.org/falconersdinner/ .