By CHARITY B. SMITH
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — A large group of monsters, witches and ghouls with mental challenges gathered at Elks Lodge 2194 for the annual Pumpkin Patch Halloween Party.
The Elks is a supporter of the mentally impaired and has hosted this party for 27 years. This year 115 people were in attendance.
“This is probably one of the best turnouts,” Elks Secretary Rose Tarcia said. “We combined with the Downriver Guidance Center this year. We had numerous groups here.”
Children of all ages came from group homes and schools throughout the Downriver area. This year, one of the schools, Jo Brighton Skills Center in Wyandotte, started sending email notifications to parents as well.
Club member Marge Jones said she believes the large turnout is due to the increase in the advertising scope, because of the addition of electronic notifications.
Numerous Downriver organizations and residents donated time, products and money for the party. Several pizza chains, including Jet’s, Little Caesars, and Happy’s, donated pizza. Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village donated carved pumpkins, Allen Park High School students donated their homecoming floats as decoration.
The party also featured a disc jockey and a cash bar for those who were of age.
“It is a community effort,” said Mark Bailey, who organizes the event and gives credit to anyone who helps him make the event a reality each year with a nod in the event program. “I understand that people can’t do it every year but we really appreciate their help. I try and list anyone who has helped over the last 10 years.”
Caregivers and parents of the developmentally disabled appreciate the efforts of Bailey and the Downriver community.
“It’s really good,” Carrie Walrath, a caregiver at Chrysalis Developmental Homes, said of the party. “They are enjoying it. It gets them out of the house and gets them to do things.”
Laurie Harris, whose daughter Brittany Harris attended the party, “I thought it was cool because she could be a part of something with her friends, outside of school.”
Stephanie Jackson, 23, a student at Jo Brighton Skills Center summed it up. “I like everything!”
The Elks also helped sponsor Panic on Park Avenue, an outdoor party for the community. Businesses in the Park Avenue business district passed out candy to trick-or-treaters, and featured live music.
The party and Panic were held simultaneously. More than 2,000 trick-or-treaters were in attendance and then flocked into the local neighborhoods for more candy.
“It is a nice event,” said Mike Basques of Wyandotte, who brought his daughter to trick-or-treat and dressed up as well. “We have been coming here for the last three years.”
The Elks is planning another party for the mentally disabled near Valentine’s Day.
“It will give them something to do in the middle of winter,” Elks Lodge 2194 Exhalter Ruler Jay Erickson said.
(Charity B. Smith can be reached at email@example.com.)