More than 425 turn out for Trunk or Treat at MMI (NE UCEDD/LEND)

December 23, 2019

More than 425 people attended the third annual Halloween Trunk or Treat at the Munroe-Meyer Institute, braving wintry conditions to take part in the event designed to be inclusive and accessible for children with developmental disabilities or complex health care needs.

MMI faculty and staff, community partners such as WhyArts and the Ronald McDonald House, and the Student Alliance for People of All Abilities (SAPA) decorated trunks in themes ranging from Harry Potter to Maleficent to the Cookie Monster. Puppets, clowns and even actual Omaha firefighters were on hand to pass out treats and share the day with the children.

MMI's Sarah Swanson, one of the team members from the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, said she loves being able to see children and families enjoying themselves.
"Not only is this an inclusive opportunity for families," said Swanson, costumed in curlers and a bathrobe and passing out children's books, "but it builds camaraderie among the people at MMI, and it lets us connect in a different way with the community."

One father said his young son had trouble wearing costumes -- because of texture sensitivity -- and the event gave the boy an opportunity to "wander around and do his thing" without anybody worrying about how he was dressed.

Another parent, attending the event for the first time, said she loved it, because it gave her son an opportunity to practice saying, "Trick or treat."

Another mother praised the accepting atmosphere of the event, noting that when her son decided to twirl around, nobody batted an eye. "It's awesome," she said.

Shaker Dukkipati, president of SAPA, said the group was excited to be sponsoring a trunk for its second year. SAPA members created a "fishing hole" from the back of their red truck, letting kids dangle a fishing line behind a blue barrier, where a SAPA student would attach a treat or small toy.
"It's just really nice seeing all the kids have fun," he said.

MMI Director Karoly Mirnics, M.D., Ph.D., who attended in a cowboy outfit and a Halloween-themed tie, called the event "an amazing experience" and congratulated organizers Melonie Welsh and Jackie Hankins of MMI's community engagement office.

"I am grateful for all who participated," Dr. Mirnics said, "and very proud to be part of MMI."