HMH teams up with Red Bulls for event catering to needs of autistic children

Hackensack Meridian Health is partnering with the New York Red Bulls to bring fun activities to its patients on the autism spectrum, while fundraising for Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation’s Autism CAN initiative, as part of April’s Autism Awareness Month.

Autism diagnoses are on the rise. Among all U.S. 8-year-olds, 1 in 36 had autism in 2020, the CDC estimated. That’s up from 1 in 44 two years earlier.

While children on the autism spectrum will differ in their presentation, symptoms and needs, many autistic children have sensory issues, meaning loud sounds, including music and flashing lights, can be problematic. That typically means attending sporting events is out of the question, until now.

Hackensack Meridian Health and the New York Red Bulls will host a special Autism Awareness and Acceptance soccer match on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo.

To accommodate fans with sensory issues, lights at this match will be dimmed, and music and announcement volume lowered. Additionally, sensory sacks will be handed out, including: noise-canceling headphones, fidget “pop-its,” wristbands to write down seat location in case a child gets lost and more.

The “BULLevard” in front of the arena will have no music played during the first hour of the event. There will also be several quiet rooms available for those that need a sensory break.

As part of the partnership, Hackensack Meridian children’s health patients are invited to attend, and several families will participate in the halftime high-five line in the Red Bulls’ player tunnel.

A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales of this match will benefit Autism CAN, a fundraising initiative of Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation.

Autism CAN (Care, Access, Navigate) was established to provide autistic patients with the highest level of care and to create access to specialized health care environments sensitive to the unique needs of children on the autism spectrum. It also helps families navigate the needed resources for patients on the spectrum. To help support this initiative, fans can also donate by rounding up their concession stand purchases.

To learn more about how you can support Autism CAN, click here.