Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club fills void for special needs kids

About 2,700 special needs kids and their families attended the 33rd Annual Special Day for Special Kids. (Submitted photos)

When Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club members noticed that their community lacked activities for the city’s special needs children, David Lewis and members began buying railroad cars and rides for the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale.

Thirty-three years later, “Special Day for Special Kids,” continues as a designated day at the park for special needs children in wheelchairs and those with other disabilities children, according to a press release.

The event is open to any special needs child in the Valley, the release notes.

“It is a big carnival and it’s the first time that special needs kids feel like they can go to the park and not be stared at and looked at and feel comfortable” says Bill Bergdoll, this year’s event organizer, in a prepared statement.

Jessie enjoys a special day at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale.

Mr. Lewis credits much of the event’s success to nearly 250 volunteers giving back to the community, manning a variety of rides, booths and activities, the release notes. Mr. Lewis, who has worked the event since it began, stated that the smiles on the kids’ faces “melted your hearts to the point where it came near bringing me to tears.”

“These angelic faces could have been any one of us, our siblings, friends or whoever. As Forrest Gump once said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you are going to get,’” he says. “When the parents come to thank us at the end of the event with eyes welled up with tears and you hear ‘This was the best day of the entire year for my child’, it is hard to keep it together.’”

In addition to a police on horseback and a DJ, he said participants enjoy lunch, drinks, ice cream, popcorn, “bouncy things,” pony rides, petting zoo, train and carousel rides; local team mascots and cheerleaders; games with prizes; fire trucks, vendors assisting families, all for free.

This year, about 2,700 special needs kids and their families attended. While many companies contribute to the effort, the project is supported with the annual Golf Tournament which will be on Friday, March 23 at Starfire Golf Course.

To participate, go to and sign up to play golf, sponsor a hole, participate in the 50/50 raffle, or donate.

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