Launching good times for special needs kids
Individuals living with special needs now have the opportunity to take over Launch Trampoline Park on Route 2 once a month during the facility’s Special Needs Day.
“They get free roam of the entire facility,” said Amanda Perry, field representative for Launch. “They get to do whatever they like.”
Normally closed on Tuesdays, Launch opens its doors at 4:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month for individuals of all ages living with special needs. For only $10, the special needs individual and an accompanying adult (if necessary) have use of three trampoline courts for a full hour (4:30 to 5:30 p.m.)
For those who have never been to the facility, Launch features 66 trampolines on four different courts: A main court, a small court for those under 42 inches tall, a trampoline dodge ball court, and a foam pit court that allows jumpers to get a running start before jumping into a large pit of foam squares.
Guests to the facility pay by the hour ($14) or half-hour ($8).
During a typical day at Launch, multiple court monitors watch each court, music is blasting throughout the facility and kids and adults alike are having a ball jumping throughout the various courts. In fact, Perry said the adults are having just as much fun as the kids, “if not more.”
But on Special Needs Day, the music is turned off, there is only one court monitor per area and the environment is ideal to keep these special jumpers comfortable and having a great time.
“This is a special time; it’s just for them,” said Perry.
Launch has been open on Route 2 in Warwick for about a year and a half, located in the same building as Planet Fitness in the same plaza as Best Buy. Special Needs Day began a year ago.
“Special needs is so near and dear to the owners’ hearts,” explained Perry. “We wanted to create that safe haven for everyone.”
Rob and Erin Arnold, and former New England Patriot player Ty Law, own Launch; the Warwick location is the only one in Rhode Island.
This past Tuesday marked the first time the event started at 4:30 p.m.
“We made it a little later because we thought it would be a little easier for people,” said Perry. “We’re trying to get it out that we do this. It is so much of a different atmosphere than it is on the weekend.”
Over 30 kids attended the event on Tuesday, one of the largest crowds Perry has seen, proof that word is spreading.
“He loves it,” said Megan Cary, a worker with 11-year-old Kyle Cusick. As Cary watched, Cusick had a great time rushing from court to court to try the various trampolines.
“He loves trampolines. It’s really cool for him to come here,” said Cary, who said she had brought Cusick to Special Needs’ Day before.
While most keep to themselves, jumping on trampolines with their guardian, parent or friends, others jump right in. They see who can jump higher and even help one another climb out of the foam pit, which can be quite a challenge.
“Some will interact. It depends on who’s here. With this crowd, it depends on their comfort level with others,” said Perry.
Seventeen-year-old Justin Palmaccio was jumping like a pro, spending most of his time on the main court. But his mother Lisa remembers how different things were the first time.
Lisa recalled Justin being leery to try out the trampoline, and he actually didn’t jump at all on his first visit. Tuesday marked their third time participating in Special Needs’ Day, and Lisa said Josh enjoys it now.
“Even if they don’t do anything the first time, it is worth trying again,” said Lisa. She added that she believes being on the trampoline is helping with Justin’s ability to balance.
Special educator teacher at Drum Rock Early Childhood Center Lisa Vota brought not only her own son to Tuesday’s program, but also three other special needs kids she has known for many years.
“They need it. It gives them a chance not to be in a big crowd,” said Vota, adding that the program is great. “They’re with their peers.”
Special Needs Day has not only become something special for those who visit, but also for employees. Perry explained most of the employees at Launch are high school and college students, but they volunteer their time to work on Special Needs Day.
Special Needs Day occurs on the first Tuesday of every month, but regular Launch hours are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3 to 8 p.m., Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information about Launch and other programs they hold, visit www.launchri.com.