Darla Farmer and Hope For Three Autism Advocates have often visited Constellation Field to watch the Sugar Land Skeeters play baseball.
The hope is that they will continue to frequent the ballpark for years to come, but for a reason that transcends sports.
Sugar Land-based Hope for Three, in conjunction with the Skeeters minor league franchise, will host the inaugural Sensory-Friendly Holiday Lights Night this Thursday from 6-9 p.m. It is part of the Skeeters’ annual Holiday Lights, which began Nov. 22 at Constellation Field and concludes Jan. 5.
Featuring more than 3 million lights, themed areas, daily appearances from Santa Claus, a carnival, vendors for holiday shopping and more, the annual Holiday Lights event features something for all ages. And on Thursday, it will also provide an environment that maximizes inclusion for individuals who experience sensory overload.
“Rarely do families (with those special needs children) have inclusive opportunities to attend events as
a family. When you open the door to special needs communities and those are the ones who attend, they feel more welcomed, safe and not judged,” said Farmer, Hope For Three’s executive director. “Everyone’s living the same journey. There’s much more understanding and acceptance, so this allows our families to experience the same opportunities as any other family.”
Hope For Three is a local nonprofit and autism advocacy group providing resources and support to families living with autism spectrum disorder, which affects one in 45 school-aged children, according to the organization.
The group also generates awareness through outreach, education and events such as the inaugural Sensory Lights Night. Hope For Three was approached about it in September by the Skeeters.
“One of the themes that came up (during our end-of-season meetings) was the need to truly include everyone, so this became an idea. We pitched (Darla) on it, and it sort of grew from there,” Skeeters Vice President of Events Matt Thompson said.
Thompson said the Skeeters introduced a new interactive infield light show for the Holiday Lights event last year. However, that summer conversation with Farmer determined that to truly become all-inclusive, the show needed some tweaks.
Many children who are on the autism spectrum experience sensory overload issues, which could potentially be exacerbated by a typical lights display, according to Farmer. So this year’s sensory-friendly adjustments will include the lowering of lights and softening of music as well as other holiday sounds.
Thursday’s event will also feature a sensory room where children will be able to go should they need to recover before resuming activities.
“This gives them the opportunity to enjoy a family fun event without those situations that might not allow them to attend something like this. There’s nothing like this in Fort Bend County, and the Skeeters had never previously offered anything just for those who might have sensory overload issues,” Farmer said. “This was extremely inviting so our families could enjoy the light show under these special circumstances. It just really fits in with what we do.”
Santa, Swatson and others will also be on deck for fun, while hot cocoa, S’mores and more will be available for all individuals with different abilities.
“It’s not just about the kids, but about the parents being able to come here and see their kids enjoy something fun like this,” Thompson said. “That’s the leading point of why we do this, and to extend that opportunity to Hope for Three and other organizations is a bonus.”
Residents can purchase tickets – $15 for adults and $12 for children – at sugarlandholidaylights.com and enter the code “H43″ to receive a $2 discount off each ticket with an additional $2 donated to Hope For Three.
For more information on Hope For Three programs and resources, visit hopeforthree.org or call 281-245-0640.