Rotary Club hosts special day for special kids

Halen Doughty

The Rotary Club of Gonzales hosted a special day for children with special needs at the Kidz Kove Discovery Park in Gonzales. The October 24 event welcomed 246 students and teachers from the east bank for "Kids in the Park," an annual event celebrating local special needs kids.

Public Relations Chair Jon Hirsch said the Rotary Club has put the event on for 18 years. It began as a simple brown bag lunch in the baseball park with about 50 children. Today the event has grown to hundreds of kids and their teachers, who ate burgers and hot dogs and even got to take a bag of candy home with them.

Local elected officials were on hand helping to cook and serve the food, and they all agreed this is the one of the Rotary Club's best events. State Representative Johnny Berthelot has been a member of the club for as long as the event has been held. He said it's remarkable how much it's grown over the years.

"This is the best thing the Rotary Club does all year," said Berthelot. "It really makes you feel good."

Parish President Kenny Matassa echoed that sentiment saying, "This is the greatest project the Rotary Club does, and the kids love it."

Berthelot and others helped grill the hamburgers and serve the kids as they moved through the line. It took a team of Rotarians and teachers to wrangle up the rambunctious kids for lunch.

"This is a heartwarming event for both our Rotarians and the students,” said Hirsch. “The smiles and excitement of the students is contagious. That’s why many members of the Gonzales Rotary consistently rank this event as their favorite each year.”

The Kidz Kove Discovery Park was specially designed to meet the unique needs of each child. Mayor Barney Arceneaux said every detail was considered during construction. Sails were placed over parts of the park, as some children need shady areas to play. Other areas are open for children who need more sunlight. The playground itself is padded to prevent skinned knees if someone falls, and ropes around the safety rails of the sidewalk provide extra protection from bumps and bruises. It really is the most kid-friendly park around.

It's the perfect location for this kind of gathering, which Hirsch said isn't a money maker, but a "smile-making event."

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