VanHouten and about 185 fellow Ottawa Area Center students enjoyed the downtown carnival with their families and center staff Thursday.
A private donor made the outing to the Coast Guard Festival possible, said JoAnne Thorsen, director of the Ottawa Area Center. Baker College’s physical therapy students volunteered and worked with the students at the carnival.
The Ottawa Area Center serves ages 3-26 who have physical or cognitive impairments. They serve students from 11 school districts in Ottawa County.
“They look forward to today,” Thorsen said at the carnival Thursday.
Before riding the Gravitron, VanHouten said she had fun on the Himalaya and planned to ride it again.
In addition to carnival rides, students also received a hot dog and french fries from a food vendor.
Besides fun, the rides provide students with sensory experiences, Thorsen said, and a chance to be part of the community. Although they practice communication, social and independence skills in the OAC classrooms, visiting the busy downtown carnival gives the students a chance to put those skills into action.
OAC Assistant Director Julia Plaggemeyer said she takes delight in seeing the students enjoy their day and seeing everyone come together. Thorsen said she enjoys the smiles.