STUDIO CITY (CBS) — More than 50 organizations gathered in Studio City on Saturday for Stephanie’s Day, a resource fair for families and friends of autistic and special needs children.
For a second year in a row, CBS2 and KCAL9 hosted the event on the CBS lot at 4200 Radford Avenue. It began at 10 a.m. and concluded at 2 p.m.
And while the day is billed as a resource fair, anyone who has attended knows it’s so much more.
CBS2 and KCAL9 Health reporter Lisa Sigell says the event works to connect families and showcase some of the best therapies, schools and intervention programs in the area.
Among the fifty groups present was Exceptional Minds, a nonprofit school and animation studio for young adults on the autism spectrum.
Stephanie’s Day was started by CBS2 and KCAL9 President and General Manager Steve Mauldin 16 years ago in honor of his daughter. A beaming father told the crowd, “She loves being here and loves the kids.” That was clearly evident as Stephanie greeted throngs of people with a hug.
The lot filled up quickly for a day of fun, sharing, learning and connecting. There was also a lot of entertainment, autographs and meet-and-greets with CBS2 and KCAL9 personalities, food, dancing, sports. And plenty of smiles.
Said Mauldin, “There are so many families who have special needs kids, that struggle to have just a normal, everyday life. This resource fair is about making it a little bit better.”
His wife Sheilah, Stephanie’s mom, also sees the help benefits. “It’s like a big birthday party — where everyone is happy. And there are snacks and balloons and goody bags. So it’s just a wonderful, wonderful event.”
Parent Annie Young brought her son Calvin. “This event is great,” she said, “it gave us both an opportunity to learn something.”
Frank Nelson brought his son Austin. They put their snacks aside just long enough to tell Sigell how much the day meant to them, too. “This is an adventure for my son,” said Nelson, “it’s a happy day. It’s his day.”
Sherry Brady was overcome with emotion when she told Sigell what the day meant to her as a mother with a special needs child. For one thing, the day makes her feel like she isn’t alone. Wiping away tears, she said, “It’s wonderful to be a part of a day like this. An amazing day, to meet amazing people. I realize just how lucky I am to have my daughter. Even more so today than I do on a regular basis.”
Sigell also spoke to Matthew Asner, executive director for SoCal’s Autism Speaks. He said events like Stephanie’s Day are needed now more than ever. “Events like this are a wonderful opportunity for families to come out and see what’s out there. To see cutting-edge programs and technologies. There’s nothing like it.”
Says a beaming Mauldin, “These kids are blessings. We take that very seriously. We know it’s changed our life for the better. And we hope we can make other lives as good as possible. Stephanie is a very fortunate girl, but we are a very fortunate family to have her.”