The back lot at Touro University Nevada is typically filled with cars, but on April 7, it was filled with fun.
Complete with bounce houses, police cruisers, cotton candy, carnival games, a mini-Raiders football camp, and more, the university hosted its first “Building Blocks” Party for ‘differently-abled’ children and adolescents.
The university partnered with Henderson Police Department and Special Olympics Nevada for the special event. Touro also worked with several sponsors to offset the costs, including Healthcare Partners, Henderson Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Emerald Island Casino, Siegel Cares, Current Events, Latin Chamber of Commerce, Got Turf, Balloons with a Twist, and Zippy Shell.
Additional partners included the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders, the Las Vegas Lights, and others.
Students from the Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and Health and Human Services also worked together to create unique low/limited/full sensory carnival games specifically for the ‘differently-abled’ community.
“We wanted to bring our daughter Azlynn to the Building Blocks party so she could experience a carnival with other ‘differently-abled’ children,” said Kimberlie Opipari, whose two-year-old daughter Azlynn has Down Syndrome. “She had a great time playing games and we’re so glad that Touro had this type of carnival for kids like her.”
The Building Blocks Party was also attended by families who brought their neuro-typical children to engage with the ‘differently-abled’ community.
“I wanted to bring my nieces here to play with ‘differently-abled’ kids as a way for them to spend more time with kids who might not be like them,” said Henderson resident Erin Campbell. “ ‘Differently-abled’ children are becoming more integrated in society, and I think it’s important for our kids’ development and the world in general.”
More than 75 students across all of Touro’s programs volunteered during the event. While some worked near the carnival games and food court, others gave tours of the three mobile healthcare clinics.
“I wanted to participate in the Building Blocks Party because I love interacting with children,” said first-year medical student Yesenia Vasquez. “It also gave me the opportunity to put my bilingual skills to good use in the community.”
In addition to hosting its first Building Blocks party, Touro University Nevada celebrated the beginning of Autism Awareness Month with the annual Light It Up Blue party inside the Linq on April 1. The event was for families in the Sharon Sigesmund Pierce and Stephen Pierce Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities.
Families had a blast riding The High Roller and celebrated with a party that included face painting, balloon animals, healthy snacks, and more. Shortly before 8 p.m. that night, families and Touro staff, students, and administrators gathered outside for a group photo in front of The High Roller as it turned blue in celebration of Autism Awareness Month.