The screams of laughter could be heard even above the DJ’s blaring pop music on the South Lawn at Redwood High School on Saturday, April 29 at a free carnival hosted by Redwood and Terra Linda High School’s Friendship Clubs.
The carnival featured 15 booths offering games, education on various topics including gardening and art, relay races, a clown, a jumpy house, food and music.
The Friendship Clubs work to integrate the special education students with their peers at their schools by engaging them in fun activities, projects and events. People of all ages attended with their families and friends.
Karen Starkey, assistant teacher for special ed students, hopes this will be the first of many carnivals.
“The caregivers love it, [and] the kids love it,” she said.
Julia Mika, parent of special education student Freddy Mika, also praised the event.
“This is a way for me to connect with Redwood kids that are currently neuro-typically developing,” Mika said. “It’s also good for Freddy [and] for me to know the friends that he is involved with.”
Mika explained that many special education kids will be attending classes on the Redwood campus for several more years, so this carnival was another way for her child to connect with people at Redwood.
“That’s what it’s all about for my husband and I, making sure Freddy is dialed in with his community and this is just one more thing that does it,” Mika said.
Students and their families commended many of the activities as well as the event as a whole.
“The Friendship photo album—that’s really neat because that’s both the neurotypical kids and the special needs kids together, and that’s a reflection of what it’s like on this campus all the time,” Mika said. “This is [Freddy’s] community and [this event] is really about community.”
The Elks Club of San Rafael sponsored the carnival as a way to give back to the school and their special education programs according to Kim Cochrane, Redwood’s Friendship Club’s advisor.
“This is a way of celebrating everyone no matter their differences and showing the families we have a lot of respect for the children they’ve raised,” said Jenna Herz, Redwood’s Friendship Club’s president.
The two schools’ clubs have been planning the carnival since last autumn. Redwood’s Friendship Club also offers other activities including Halloween and spring dances and other outreach activities.