Special children are unique. Their abilities are unique. Their understanding is unique. Their needs are unique. Should that mean that they cannot participate in the joy of Purim, a day that is often termed ‘the children’s holiday’? is it possible to create a unique Purim atmosphere, geared especially for them?
A ‘Special’ Purim carnival?
With funding donated by a very generous Ezer Mizion benefactor in honor of his mother’s 85th birthday, this grand event took place. This wasn’t just a low-key, simple carnival. It was a happening! Over 100 Special Needs Children attended. The children were on a high. Their parents were riding right with them on cloud nine, ecstatic that these precious children were able to experience a Purim in a way that they never could have accomplished.
“Yair came home so excited. We didn’t recognize him.”
“My other children were jealous and wanted to know if they could also come next year!”
“So many surprises!”
“You made our whole Purim!”
For one mother, at least, this day marked a major change in her family. Paralyzed by shame, she has been unable to accept her child. Her child attended Ezer Mizion’s Afternoon Club for Special Needs Children and the mother always insisted that our driver never to stop in front of the house so people should not see her child. On this special day, the child’s volunteer, who accompanies her home on the van each day, called the mother as they were driving down her block. “This is a must see! You won’t believe this! You won’t even recognize your daughter. I can’t wait to show you how cute she looks! And she has become best friends with a clown. You won’t believe it!” The mother actually got excited, came down, for the first time in public! In full view of everyone in the neighborhood! She asked the driver to stop in front (!) and she made him wait, as the neighbors looked on, while she took pictures of her little girl with the clown and her volunteer. This was a real milestone for that mother, in helping her accept her child!! What a happy moment for all of us.
The carnival is in full swing. Come on in, dear reader, and lets take a peak. In every corner, there are volunteer clowns dancing with the children and creating that electric Purim atmosphere. There’s a live band that doesn’t allow anyone’s feet to remain still. Shmuly is getting a shoulder ride on one clown. Another one is letting Yossi “beep” his nose.
Dovi is wearing a mask that he just finished creating at the “Mask Booth”. Shuey is getting in line so he can make an even more funny one. Oops! Shuey got a bit too excited and accidently pushed Yitzy. His counselor helps him say ‘I’m sorry.’ A contrite Shuey gives Yitzy a big hug.
Wearing their new masks Shuey and Yitzy run to the Petting Zoo. Yitzy tries to put a mask on the rabbit but he doesn’t like it. His counselor helps him put the mask back on his own face and Yitzy settles down on the floor. His face lights up as the counselor gently places a hamster on his lap. With one finger, he tentatively strokes the hamster’s soft fur. Shuey is holding a rabbit and softly singing Mi Shenichnas Adar to him. (On this glorious afternoon of miracles, we would not be surprised to hear the rabbit sing along.)
At the far corner at the Balloon Booth, Avi and Nachy are watching in fascination as a red balloon suddenly becomes a horse and a blue one is transformed into an elephant. The counselor offers them the chance to create faces for them and the boys happily sit down to work on their masterpieces to take home to show Mommy and their siblings. It’s not often that they have something so special to bring home to their families.
Chaim races over to Avi, his best friend, and, with a flourish, hands him a package. “It’s Shalach monos,”he shouts in glee. “I made it myself!” He sure did! At the Purim Kitchen Booth where the children were able to make their own chocolate rum balls for shalach monos. Everywhere you look, some little boys are handing brightly colored packages out to their friends. Others are clutching them tight, planning to give them to Mommy.
Wow! There’s Zalmy almost as high as the sky. He’s jumping on the blown-up castle with Levi. Soon they topple in a heap of arms and legs, romping in delight. Now up again as they try to jump so high to reach the white cloud overhead.
Who’s that? It looks like a short clown, only three feet high. Oh, it’s Moshie. Looks like he’s been to the Make-up Booth where the volunteers gave him a terrific clown face. There he is dancing with one of the grown-up clowns, in rapturous ecstasy.
Soon this heavenly day began winding down. Ezer Mizion certainly didn’t expect the children to be able to settle down for a quiet supper in their homes so supper was served a part of the fun. The day was ending but not before each child was taken to the Photography Booth where his picture was taken and placed in a magnet to bring home to his family. For his other hand, he received a decorated goody bag plus a helium balloon, souvenirs of, what was for many, their first real Purim Fun Day.