Families of children with special sensory needs can now enjoy events at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, sharing family time and making memories in a setting that includes all.

The Well now includes a Sensory Suite designed with community input to meet the unique sensory needs of those who have difficulty processing the sights and sounds of a typical arena show. The suite is part of an ongoing effort by the arena’s management and staff to be inclusive to all needs and abilities. That effort began with offering Friendly Access Sensory Safety Kits that include comfort tools for guests at all events.

“I recognized quickly that families weren’t coming to an arena event because a member of their family wasn’t comfortable here,” Beth Paul, General Manager of the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, said. “We wanted to remove that barrier.”

Without many examples upon which to model the suite, community organizations, including The Meyer Center, Project HOPE and the Center for Developmental Services, as well as the families they serve, were asked to provide feedback on the suite’s development.

“It did start with trying to find ways to break down barriers,” Paul said. “It’s more than just remodeling a room. It takes creating a culture that is welcoming. We didn’t know what we didn’t know.”

Representatives of The Well received training from Project HOPE before the sensory kits were made available.

“We continued training and we continued talking,” Paul said. “We have extended these initiatives into recruiting and our workforce.”

Tickets for the suite will be available for purchase for events, including hockey games, during which the view will not be obstructed. For other events, ticket holders can ask for access to the suite as a calming space. The suite debuted to guests at the recent Kelly Clarkson concert. Clarkson was so impressed with the idea that she talked about it from the stage. Upcoming concerts by Eric Church and New Kids on the Block will offer tickets to the Sensory Suite as well.

In addition to meeting sensory needs, The Well also offers Skate, Roll and Stroll days where families with children with disabilities can explore the ice in their wheelchairs or walkers, walk on the ice or be pulled around the ice in a sled or wagon.

“It’s a commitment that we’ve made,” Paul said. “It has to be a culture and something inherent in the business.”

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