Halloween carnival caters to community members with special needs

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Spooky music and creative costumes haunted the Gardner Student Center Ballroom Thursday night for a Halloween event hosted especially for the special-needs community and their families. 

The Special Needs Carnival organized by the Dixie State University Student Association was open to students and the community and filled the ballroom with princesses, superheroes, cowboys and other costumed attendees. Clubs on campus provided Halloween activities like face painting and cookie decorating, as well as lots of candy and prizes. 

Sarah Beacco, a junior integrated studies major from St. George and the youth support service leader for DSUSA, helped organize the event. She said one of the goals of the carnival this year was to extend invitations to more than just students on campus and see attendance grow.

“We tried to reach out to a lot more of the special needs individuals within our community,” Beacco said. “As far as we know, it is the only Halloween event that’s put on in the city for special needs individuals and their families.” 

Justin Tuft, a St. George resident with special needs, said his favorite part of the carnival was the bowling game and getting to dress up in costume. 

“I’m a disabled beach bum because I’m in a wheelchair,” Tuft said after fishing for guesses about his Hawaiian shirt and shorts. “It’s the best way to get someone to push you around.”

Tuft hula-hooped with the help of someone dressed as Spider-Man and some friends while he sang a rendition of Jimmy Buffett’s song, “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”

Terrence Johnson, a senior communication major from Los Angeles representing the Black Student Union, said if students came and saw the fun other people were having, they would want to be a part of the carnival.

“I am dressed up as a six-foot two-inch, red Elmo,” Johnson said. “I see a lot of kids smiling because they see that a lot of people care and support [them].”

Johnson said some people with special needs may normally feel left out or like they are unable to participate in some activities, and that is what makes the carnival important.

“This is all for them,” Johnson said, referring to the carnival and his heavy costume, wiping away sweat from his forehead and putting on his large, furry Elmo mask.