How The Nice Wolf Lodge Is Encouraging Others To Help Autism Acceptance
During the Spring Breakout, the Great Wolf Lodge wants to help spread awareness, understanding, and … [+]
Great Wolf Lodge
As you walk through the Great Wolf Lodge (GWL), there’s no doubt that this family resort is focused on accommodating children of all ages and all abilities. Whether it’s the music played through the corridors (primarily Kidz Bop), the décor, or the Magic Quest that lines several hallways for children to play in.
The Great Wolf Resorts are a chain of indoor water parks. The company owns and operates its family resorts under the Great Wolf Lodge brand. In addition to a water park, each resort features restaurants, arcades, spas, and children’s activities. They make every effort to provide their guests with everything a child could enjoy.
This includes autistic children.
“At Great Wolf Lodge, some of our favorite fans and frequent visitors have children on the autism spectrum,” said Jason Lasecki. His title is VP of Corporate Communications. “That’s why we’re happy to support Autism Speaks with our Blue Ear Campaign during Spring Breakout. Beginning in the middle of March, we launched a campaign with Autism Speaks to sell specialty Blue Wolf Ears at all of our US lodges with 100% of proceeds going to Autism Speaks.”
Promoting Autism Acceptance
April is Autism Acceptance Month. In 1970, the Autism Society launched an ongoing nationwide effort to promote autism awareness and assure that all affected by autism can achieve the highest quality of life possible.
In 1972, the Autism Society launched the first annual National Autistic Children’s week, which evolved into Autism Acceptance Month (AAM). This April, many are aiming to help spread awareness, promote acceptance, and ignite change.
Considering the CDC recently released statistics showing that 1 in 44 kids are on the autism spectrum, it makes sense that GWL would find a way to honor and celebrate neurodiversity.
The Blue Ears Campaign
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication challenges. There is not one autism but many subtypes, and each person with autism can have unique strengths and challenges.
GARDEN GROVE, CA – JANUARY 07: Wolf ears worn by a Great Wolf Lodge representative Mike Foley is … [+]
Media News Group via Getty Images
During the Spring Breakout, the Great Wolf Lodge wants to help spread awareness, understanding, and acceptance of people with autism. Therefore, they offer a special blue version of the brand’s signature wolf ears, available for a minimum five dollar donation to Autism Speaks.
This is the second year that GWL has raised awareness and money around autism. “We weren’t sure how well the blue ear campaign would do our first year,” said Lasecki. “So we ordered just over 10,000 sets of ears. They quickly sold out, and, as a result, we were able to donate over $50,000 to Autism Speaks.”
At check-in, guests are given the option to purchase a pair (or multiple pairs) of the blue wolf ears. Lasecki said that many of their guests choose to go above the recommended 5-dollar donation. This year, they are hoping to exceed $100,000 in donations.
Creating Life-Long Relationships With the Autistic Community
“We have many families with a child or children on the autism spectrum who frequent our resorts and consider Great Wolf Lodge as their family’s favorite place for a quick getaway,” Mr. Lasecki said. “We wanted to do something that showed our appreciation and support for the autistic community and give back.”
Across all of their lodges, they welcome approximately 8 million visitors annually. Christa Lucarelli and her son, Jimmy, are just two of those visitors.
Bill Colavito, the General Manager of Great Wolf Lodge (left) at the Pocono Mountains location with … [+]
Jimmy is autistic. He is verbal but has a stutter, and as his mother explained, he sometimes struggles to express himself. However, Jimmy loves to learn, has a great memory, graduated high school with a diploma, and takes classes at Molloy College. He is not working towards a degree but goes to learn whatever he can.
“We began going to GWL when it first opened in 2005,” said Lucarelli. “Jimmy was five, and my other son Nicky was two. We began going two times a year and visited five to six times a year before the pandemic. In total, we have been to GWL about 60 times.”
Bill Colavito, the General Manager of Great Wolf Lodge at the Pocono Mountains location, knows the Lucarelli family well. “Christa wrote me an email sharing her experience and how wonderful it was for her, especially Jimmy, her special needs son. From there, we built a special relationship.”
“From our first visit, we knew there was something different about GWL, Lucarelli adds. “I had an overall feeling of calm and a sense of safety. The building is set so far from the main road I wasn’t concerned with my kids wandering out the door. The number of lifeguards and their attention to guest safety calmed this nervous mama down. The relaxed, laid-back atmosphere was just what we needed for our first vacation with a special needs child. Over the years, the staff has become family to us.”
That’s not to say neurotypical children won’t enjoy all that the lodge has to offer.
“We see children with different abilities here,” Colavito points out. “For one, our culture and purpose statement, ‘bringing joy to families, ‘ is truly heartfelt through our brand and properties. Our guests definitely feel that feeling.”
As for what Lucarelli thinks about GWL supporting autism acceptance, she responded, “Often people don’t realize intellectual/cognitive disabilities as they are not seen. GWL helping differently-abled/special needs individuals is heart-warming. A company/brand that supports these individuals will hopefully employ these individuals. I believe 90% of individuals with autism are unemployed. Many want to work and are capable of working. They just need to be given an opportunity. Autism awareness will hopefully encourage other companies to provide individuals with special needs the chance to give back to the community and increase their self-esteem.”
The limited-edition collection of blue wolf ears will be available for purchase at the company’s 18 US-based resorts from March 15 through April 30 (or until quantities sell out). All proceeds will go to Autism Speaks.