Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club hosts 30th annual ‘Special Day for Special Kids’

Thousands of special needs children and their families from throughout Maricopa County are expected to participate in the Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club’s 30th Annual “Special Day for Special Kids” to be held 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, located at the corner of Scottsdale and Indian Bend roads.

Approximately 2,500 people attended last year’s "Special Day for Special Kids." This year's event will be held Saturday, March 21.

Approximately 2,500 people attended last year’s “Special Day for Special Kids.” This year’s event will be held Saturday, March 21.

During the past three decades, the fun-filled free day of festivities has grown into one of the premier events in the Valley dedicated to children with special mental and physical needs.

In addition to Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club, other major sponsors this year include Scottsdale Unified School District Service Learning and Raising Special Kids.

“Approximately 2,500 people attended last year’s event and we are anticipating a record crowd this year as we celebrate our 30th anniversary,” says David Lewis, Rotary chairman, who started this as a community service project with just a few dozen special needs kids in attendance in 1985.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to hear so many heartwarming stories from families who have participated through the years and to witness such phenomenal growth. For some, it’s the only day of the year where their kids can come to the park and not feel ostracized, different or left out. It’s an honor for all of us to give them that experience.”

The 2015 event features free train and carousel rides, carnival games and booths, face painting, clowns and a petting zoo, along with free hot dogs, chips, ice cream and beverages.

Children enjoy appearances by Ronald McDonald, Phoenix Suns Gorilla, Coyotes Howler, and Big Red and the cheerleading squad from the Arizona Cardinals. In addition, representatives from Liberty Wildlife, Scottsdale Police K-9 Unit, Scottsdale Fire Department and Diesel Media will be on hand to interact with the kids and showcase their animals, fire engines and motorcycles.

“McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is the perfect venue for this event, because the park is completely handicapped accessible and friendly,” explains Mr. Lewis.

“Our Rotary Club has helped to add several ramps at the park through the years, and donated money for two handicapped-accessible train cars (cost was $12,000 each). Hopefully, families will return to the park on their own once they have been here.”

The majority of the $16,000 needed to pay for Special Day for Special Kids comes from a golf tournament and raffle sponsored by Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club.

Food and beverages are provided by Albertson’s, Sara Lee, Frito-Lay, Bluebell Ice Cream, Reddy Ice, and Gatorade; baseball hats by BHHS Legacy Foundation; and sunscreen by Shade Foundation. Several Boy Scout troops and other Rotary Clubs have also volunteered to staff the event.

Notes Mr. Lewis, “To accommodate the anticipated crowds this year and provide plenty of parking, we’re thrilled to announce that SUSD has donated free parking space at Saguaro High School along with two mini-buses to shuttle park goers. One of the bus drivers is expected to be none other than SUSD Superintendent Dr. David Peterson.”

Mr. Lewis says the Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club is grateful to have so many dedicated people who come out year after year to help.

“They are all heroes to us! This is a wonderful way to bring together the entire community of Scottsdale and really rally around these special kids. There’s something magical about seeing the smiles and joy on the faces of these children, and watching them laughing, playing and having a great time. Each year, as the event winds down, we have families saying, ‘Please do this again next year!’ And, for 30 years, we’ve been doing just that.”

The Scottsdale City Council has proclaimed March 21 as “Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club Special Day for Special Kids Day.”

Photos from past events can be found on the club’s Facebook page at or on the Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club website at

Info about World Down Syndrome Day can be found here:

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