The McDonald’s restaurant on Island Highway opened its doors for a very special Christmas party for a group of children who, too often, are excluded from the usual round of seasonal fun.
Last Sunday, Jamie and Ken Taylor, the operators of several McDonald’s restaurants in Greater Victoria, opened their doors and hearts to host a holiday party for local children on the autism spectrum at their Colwood location.
The kids in attendance ranged in age from three to 12 years of age, and were all clients of the Langford Functional Learning Centre.
The party was something that Jamie said he was thrilled to help organize, even though it took a bit of extra care. “Kids on the spectrum often have trouble with loud noises, or too much stimulation,” he said. “So we made sure this event was set up with quiet and loud rooms so everyone has a space they can feel safe.”
Some of the children who were in attendance are able to speak, while others can only communicate through gestures. Others are incapable of communicating at all. “Getting the kids together socially outside of a therapy or educational situation is so valuable,” said Neveen Zaki, owner of Functional Learning Centre. “This kind of event helps the kids learn to play together, and give the parents time to share notes, and feel connected to other people facing the same challenges.”
The high point of the party, of course, was a visit from Santa, with the help of Santa’s helper, Bob Saunders.
“I love any chance to contribute to the community, but especially something fun like helping St. Nick for special kids like these,” Saunders said.
“These kids have so many challenges, I’m glad we could give them a fun afternoon.”
The party was a hub of activity for the 22 children in attendance, who all received gifts from Santa, and free food and beverages courtesy of McDonald’s.
One of the children summed up the event in an exuberant exclamation that only a four year old could deliver. Abigail Rose, pulled on her boots when it was time to go and beaming, picked up the toy she’d been given by Santa.
“It was super awesome. I loved it so much … especially when Santa came,” she exclaimed.