For more photos of Casino Night, visit www.LIHerald.mycapture.com.
Players anxiously watched the little white ball make its rounds across red and white squares as they waited for the roulette results to be announced. The dealer called out the winning numbers, as players examined the bets they had placed. Casino Night was well under way at the Merrick Empire Hose Company No. 3 on July 30.
Sensory Beans, a nonprofit organization formed to create a parent-facilitated, open-play, sensory gym for children with special needs, held the Casino Night at the firehouse to raise funds to establish the gym, in either Merrick or Bellmore.
Sensory gyms aim to improve children’s sensory-motor skills. Rachel Roslow, Sensory Beans’ co-founder, has raised funds for the gym for nearly a year, with the help of her husband, Brett, after doctors diagnosed their first child, Ethan, with autism. The Casino Night is one of many fundraisers that the Roslows said they hope will bring them closer to fulfilling their dreams of founding the gym.
“We raised a significant amount of money that has brought us much closer to our goal of $75,000,” Roslow said. “Joka’s Wild Casino Entertainment did a fantastic job, and all of the guests were having a great time. The tables were always filled, and everyone felt great knowing that there was no such thing as losing, because all of the proceeds were going to a great cause.”
The firehouse openly welcomed the Roslows’ fundraiser after hearing the story behind Sensory Beans. “Anytime anyone in the community is in need of help, we open the doors to anyone at any time,” Ron Luparello, the department spokesman, said. “The gym is an amazing idea that will help families and special-needs children. I honestly don’t know how anyone didn’t think of it before.”
Luparello has a child with special needs. “It’s very frustrating as a parent to find a safe place for your child to play at without getting judged or getting stared at,” he said. “Many commercial gyms have time slots that families can sign out for their kids to play, but many times parents have to rearrange their personal schedules to fit the gym’s schedules, and that can be a headache in itself.
“But the worst part,” he continued, “is when you take your child to play at the gym and you have to tell them, ‘Time’s up, we gotta go,’ because our time slot has been fulfilled. To take a child out of a fun environment like that is just heartbreaking.”
Roslow said Sensory Beans would have ample space and provide a judgment-free environment for parents and their children. Once plans were under way for the Casino Night, the Roslows and Luparello sought help from local organizations.
“Rachel [Roslow] and Ron Luparello came down to one of our meetings and explained what Sensory Beans is all about,” Michael Reid, the Merrick Kiwanis Club vice president, said. “I don’t have anyone in my immediate family that is disabled, but I’ve been a firefighter, paramedic and hospital supervisor for over 30 years, so I have a strong background in helping special-needs kids, and this mission just really speaks to your heart.”
The Kiwanis Club recently donated $1,000 to Sensory Beans. Roslow said that 125 people took part in Casino Night, and 12 volunteers — many from the fire department — were on hand to help. Local businesses from Merrick and Bellmore stepped in to donate food and drinks.
Now a little closer to their goal, the Roslows are searching for locations for the gym in the Merrick- Bellmore area. “I am so grateful for the overwhelming support we are receiving,” Rachel Roslow said. “I’m beyond excited to be on this journey and cannot thank everyone enough for helping us to get here.”
Sensory Beans accepts donations through its website, www.SensoryBeans.org, and updates the community on its progress and future fundraisers on its Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/SensoryBeansIncorporated.