HEADLINES

FOCUS Festival for Autism attracts huge crowd

What a turnout for this year's FOCUS Festival for Autism! The free event, which took place on Saturday afternoon at Mills Pond Park in Canton, drew close to 500 people from across Connecticut.

Plymouth HamletHub proudly served as the media sponsor for the festival and offered free sunglasses and hand sanitizers to festival-goers.

The Festival for Autism is the largest fundraiser of the year for FOCUS Center for Autism, whose mission is to help children and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders achieve their full potential.

Since becoming a nonprofit in 2000, the organization has developed a well-respected Milieu Therapy model of treatment that has now served over 600 children and families.

On Saturday afternoon, the sun was shining and temperatures were in the mid-eighties, making the festival a perfect place for families to enjoy some old fashioned fun.

Children and adults alike enjoyed games such as the Hole-in-One Mini Golf and bean bag toss and tested their strength with the High Striker. There were free pony rides, a petting zoo, face painting and art activities with artist and illustrator Rose Petruzzi of Bethlehem. The Cupcake Walk, a version of musical chairs where everyone wins a cupcake, attracted a big group of children eager to be the last winner who gets a giant cupcake.

One lucky FOCUS staff member had the coolest spot at the festival on Saturday as he sat on the seat above the dunk tank, waiting for anyone who wanted to take aim with a ball and try to hit the target and send him into the tank full of water.

Acorn the Clown walked around the festival and danced to the music, which was chosen by the DJ for the day, Aaron Schein, of Terryville, who attends the FOCUS after-school and summer camp programs. Tinkerbelle also made an appearance at the festival along with Rocky the Rock Cat, who posed happily for photos with families and even tried to play a game of mini golf.

The Lego tent was a perfect spot for any children who needed a sensory break and needed some quiet time. Groups of kids sprawled out inside the tent and put together the many piles of Lego pieces in the center.

The Canton Lions Clun provided food for the festival again this year. Kohl's associates from several stores in the area also came again this year to volunteer their time to help FOCUS run the festival this year.

The festival closed with the drawing of the winners for the always popular teacup raffle. The raffle drew plenty of attention this year with even more great prizes including an iPad Air, ski lift tickets, tickets to the Hartford Stage, Infinity Hall, Rock Cats tickets, beautiful gift baskets, gift certificates from area restaurants and merchants for haircuts, massages, spa treatments, fitness memberships and gift cards.

If you would like to contribute to FOCUS or find out how you can help out with next year's Festival for Autism, contact Kim Grehn ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) or Colleen Burns ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) at the FOCUS Center for Autism.

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