Santa Passes for Youth with Special Needs Bridge the Gap

When Anjika Jain was in 6th grade at Avondale Middle School she participated in a peer-to-peer learning group called Bridge Buddies that has grown into much more than she ever expected!  Her experience in 6th grade inspired her start a project in 8th grade called Project Bridge the Gap.  This program helps to bridge the gap between kids with and without special needs.  Over the past five years, Anjika has planned 40+ after-school events, where kids in special and general education have had the opportunity to do activities together such as cookie decorating, playing bingo, movie nights, and more.  This led to expanding the program to city-wide events, which is when the City of Auburn Hills started partnering with the program to offer Santa Passes to youth with special needs for the Tree Lighting Ceremony.  The Santa Pass enables children to take a carriage ride and see Santa without the barrier of waiting in line, which makes this event very difficult for some children with disabilities.

Anjika Jain holding the 2021 Santa Passes

The City of Auburn Hills Parks and Recreation Department works to ensure that all people have access to and can enjoy the benefits of our parks, programs and events.  It is important to the Recreation Department that we are able to facilitate access and opportunities for children and adults with disabilities to be healthy and active.  We are committed to removing barriers, both physical and theoretical, that deprive some people of the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of parks, programs, and events.  The Santa Pass is one way we can remove barriers for children in our community and we are proud to offer this accommodation in partnership with Project Bridge the Gap.

Anjika graduated from Avondale High School and is currently a freshman at the University of Michigan.  She is currently a Youth Activation Committee member at the Special Olympics of Michigan, a Unified Assistant Soccer Coach, and she was the winner for the Congressional App Challenge, where she created an accessible app that helps children with autism achieve essential social and cognitive tasks.  The City of Auburn Hills is very proud to have Anjika in our community and we are thrilled to be partners in supporting inclusion. 

We hope that the Santa Pass will help any children and families in need of this accommodation to have a fun experience at the Tree Lighting Ceremony this Friday.  If you have questions or need to get your Santa Pass, please call the Auburn Hills Community Center at 248-370-9353 by Thursday, or go to the volunteer sign-in station at the Den to get your pass at the event.  Look for these signs for your Santa Pass entry!

2021 Santa Pass sign

Sage Hegdal, Recreation Director

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