In Autism Awareness Month, the Autism Society of Nebraska held its annual Omaha Funfest on April 18.
The Omaha Funfest page announced Thursday that it would start at 10 a.m. that morning on Facebook live. At 11 a.m., participants took a walk wherever they were (to practice social distancing) and posted a selfie on the Omaha Funfest’s pinned post.
The page also stated there would be an online auction afterward, sending the selected winner’s prize through mail.
“We are converting and doing an online auction, and anyone is welcome to come in and bid and if you win, we’ll get everything shipping out to you,” said Autism Society of America’s Treasurer, Robyn Roberts.
Roberts said the difference for the Omaha Funfest this year compared to last year is following social distancing protocols in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said instead of the bounce houses, carnival games, face painting, arts and crafts, Lego Creation Station, video and tableside gaming, the Fun Fest will be moving online this year.
“Instead of the Lego Creation Station where you can create at the event, we are asking kids of all ages to create at home and submit their photos and we’re going to have an online gallery of all the creations that were submitted,” Roberts said.
Roberts said the Fun Fest will also display artwork made by artists on the spectrum in the presentation online gallery.
“Because we couldn’t do so many other things, we added a virtual storyboard where four kids’ stories are read, and we’re using artwork that’s been submitted that match the stories for the online story reading,” Roberts said.
The Omaha Fun Fest, originally the “Puzzle Walk,” is an annual fundraiser held for 13 years by the Autism Society of Nebraska, with proceeds raised from the event aiding the Omaha Support Network and other programs that work to help people on the Spectrum across the state.
“As we changed mainly to the indoor venue, we changed the name to [Omaha] Fun Fest because it was no longer focused on the ‘walk’ but on the ‘fun,’” Roberts said. “The walk is toward the end.”
Roberts said positive feedback received from the event is that it is a safe space for people on the spectrum and their loved ones.
“That’s what we hear a lot of feedback on, is that the kids are just having fun being themselves and they don’t have to act a certain way or be a certain way,” Roberts said. “They can just have fun.”
Roberts said even though this month is Autism Awareness Month, she hopes that it creates more acceptance of the Autism community even after April is over.
“We’re hoping that Autism Awareness month becomes Autism Acceptance Month because that’s the next step,” Roberts said. “I think people are aware that everybody is different. We are all different and that is okay. We need to accept that and move on.”
Roberts said there are also ways for people to support Autism Society of America through monetary donations and to also volunteer with their local support networks. She said the biggest way to support not only their organization, but everyone on the spectrum, is to be aware and accepting.
“We want everybody on the spectrum to be accepted for who they are and get to have an autonomous life where they can be their own person while continuing to be a productive member of society,” Roberts said.