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Event seeks to promote inclusion

Halloween activities organized by nonprofit group for disabled children

ASHLAND — An event at Central Park brought Halloween to Central Park on Saturday, but it also helped to serve a much higher purpose.

The Halloween Inclusion Palooza took place at the bandstand and allowed hundreds of children and parents the chance to play dress up early in their Halloween costumes, play on inflatables, get candy and take part in activities.

The event was organized by Buddy’s Sensory Exchange, a nonprofit, located in Ashland, that works to provide sensory equipment, such as weighted blankets, weighted vests, and noise reduction headphones, to disabled children in low-income families.

These items can help children to process all senses, so that they work together and benefit them in learning and skill development.

The group was founded by Carly Carver, who is the mother of a son with autism. The group is named for its mascot, Buddy the Autism Shark.

As Carver explained when she was featured in The Tribune’s 35 Under 35 section last month, “Buddy” was her son’s first word and he is” “in love with all things shark.”

Carver said the goal of the event was to promote better socialization between disabled children and their typical peers and give them all chance to interact with each other that they otherwise might not be exposed to, especially for those of preschool age.

“It breatks down the stigma,” she said.

Carver was dressed in scientist gear and was leading children in experiments, slime making and other activities.

Also on hand was the Ashland Fire Department, who handed out plastic helmets to children and was Heroes 4 Higher, whose founder, John Buckland, has become known throughout the region for dressing as Batman and making appearances at local schools and his work to inspire children. Buckland, in full costume, was joined by Wonder Woman in the line for candy and the two posed for photos with families.

For more information on Buddy’s Sensory Exchange, located at 2516 Carter Ave. in Ashland, visit https://www.facebook.com/pg/buddytheautismshark