Autism bash at West Bank Bridge Park will feature game truck, train rides and petting zoo

Face painting, a gaming truck, sensory tables, miniature train rides, a petting zoo and more will greet those who attend the second annual Autism Awareness and Acceptance Bubbles and Balloon Bash.

The event will take place at the West Bank Bridge Park on Sunday, April 28 from 2-5 p.m.

“The overall positive energy, love, support and hope that families will experience will be the absolute feeling any person would want to encounter; especially an individual living with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the family that cares for them,” Precious Singleton-Alexander, who will host the event, said. “There will be lots of information for parents who are in search of services, fun and games for both parents and kids, food, music and just a beautiful day to celebrate Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month.”

The theme of this year’s event is “different is beautiful,” and that’s for a very unique reason.

“I want to encourage and empower those individuals that just because you are ‘different’ does not make you less, it makes you more beautiful in God’s image, not man,” Singleton-Alexander said.

The ultimate goal of the bash, which is put on by The Chosen Ones Foundation, is to celebrate individuals and families who are living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“For The Chosen Ones (autistic community), I want them to feel welcomed, included, loved, supported and empowered to keep being different, which is beautiful, and for the families and community members, we have to continue to raise awareness, acceptance, inclusion and increase advocacy efforts for individuals living with Autism Spectrum Disorder in our community and surrounding areas; the marathon doesn’t stop after this event,” Singleton-Alexander said.

A fire truck and DJ will also be on hand at the event, while food, snowballs and cotton candy will be served.

Singleton-Alexander said that while a majority of the activities are centered around neurodivergent kids, the bash kept those who are neurotypical in mind as they enjoy some of the same things that a person with autism does.

“And we couldn’t forget about the ones that give it their all day in and day out supporting their loved one, so we have some fun games for the parents who like a little competition including a cornhole station, sack, three-leg and an egg race game that should be hilarious to play and watch,” she added.

The bash will also include a silent auction and raffles that will feature gift cards from parish businesses, a cornhole game, 32-inch TV, customized autism wreath and earrings, and an air fryer.

Last year, 461 people attended the bash, including not only those from St. Charles Parish but others from Houma, Hammond, New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Singleton-Alexander’s son, 6-year-old Rio Marley, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2021. She calls her son her “reason behind it all.”

“God blessed me to be his mom and because of that, it moved me to have the God-given vision and to fulfill a purpose that I was put on earth to do; for not only my son, but for other kids like him and that’s what you see now,” she said. “For some, this is a month to celebrate but for my family and others like me, we live this everyday.”

Singleton-Alexander said this event was all in God’s plan. After hosting her first autism event, she met Claud Adams, who believed in her vision so much that he offered to help her start The Chosen Ones Foundation.

Precious Singleton-Alexander waves to the camera with St. Charles Parish Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ken Oertling.

“And just like that, year two and we are here with the second annual autism bash,” she said. “God, Rio, my parents, Mr. Claude Adams and those families in need of this event that I don’t even know personally are my reasons behind this event and to keep it going.”

The bash cost $10 per family to attend, for up to five people per family. An additional person cost $1 for up to nine people. Money raised by admission will go towards having similar events for the autistic community throughout the year.

“Other plans and hopes are to be able to take them on sensory-friendly field trip adventures of their choice, like a farm where they can experience animal therapy; which research has shown to be effective for individuals with ASD,” Singleton-Alexander said. “In the future, we would love to be able to offer families grants to help cover expenses related to therapy, medical equipment, evaluations, as well as just financial support to help care for their child in need.”