NEWS | December 9, 2013

MIND Institute blasts off on 'A Mission to Fun'

 People arriving for party
 Fun slide for children
 Space Shuttle replica at MIND Institute event
 MIND researcher and staff
 Mad scientist gave presentation at event
 MIND staffers dressed a cartoon Minions
 Storm Trooper visits with children

The UC Davis MIND Institute blasted off on A Mission to Fun on Saturday, Dec. 7, during its annual party to thank children and their families who participate in groundbreaking research studies on disorders such as autism, fragile X syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and 22q11.2 deletion syndrome.

The outer space/science fiction themed event featured characters from the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises and The Jetsons television series. Buzz Lightyear and other characters from Toy Story were there, as was Dr. Who, along with the Tardis. The MIND Institute was overrun with minions from the Despicable Me films.

The annual event is a labor of love for the MIND Institute’s faculty, staff and a legion of volunteers, who work tirelessly to provide a fun and welcoming environment for the families who make its internationally respected research possible. Erin Roseborough, MIND Institute child life specialist and volunteer coordinator, spearheaded this year’s activities. Generous donations resulted in 74 gift baskets that were raffled, including two grand prizes.

The event also featured bounce houses and outdoor activities — even in the chilly weather. Live performances included a presentation and question-and-answer session by a real astronaut, Stephen Robinson, a veteran of four space shuttle missions who now is a professor in the university’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. 

Jackie Zuvella of Cool, Calif., said her daughters, Juliette, 10, and Camille, 8, loved the party. Juliette has autism spectrum disorder and has participated in studies on autism and sleep anomalies and using virtual reality for social skills training in children with autism. 

Zuvella said that the MIND Institute, where Juliette was diagnosed, has been a godsend to her family. Before receiving Juliette’s diagnosis her challenging behaviors made everyday life difficult.

“It wasn’t until we went to the MIND Institute and got the diagnosis that we were able to get in-home behavioral therapy for our daughter through the regional center,” Zuvella said. “I just know that, without their help with diagnosing my daughter, I would be sitting in a corner and rocking myself. And the studies help me know better how to help Juliette.”

David Amaral, director of research at the MIND Institute, said it is wonderful to be able to give back to families who make scientific discovery possible.

“We are delighted to be able to give a few hours of fun and joy back to the families who enable our research,” Amaral said. “The MIND Institute research Thank You party is made possible by dedicated faculty, staff and students, over 150 volunteers and 140 donors of gifts and services for participating families. It is one opportunity when we can express our gratitude for the collaboration and trust that our community places in the MIND Institute."

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