Nearly 175 people gathered at the UC Davis MIND Institute on Saturday for a back-to-school-themed picnic and talent showcase as part of the Family Time at the MIND series.
Parents and children enjoyed traditional picnic foods such as hot dogs, fruit, ice cream and freshly popped popcorn made by volunteers. Sacramento River Cats mascot Digger and UC Davis cosplay group Princess Pals posed for photos with adoring fans.
The special talent show featured dancers, singers and other musicians and ended in a standing ovation from the audience. Throughout the day, attendees also viewed art and visited demonstration tables with Lego sculptures, art, and drawing. They also had a chance to challenge the Tetris record-holder, Gabriel Tien Ramirez, to a video game duel.
Mark Arellano, a self-taught keyboard player, delighted spectators with an original song entitled “No, not really.” The 15-year-old was diagnosed with autism at 18 months and picked up his musical skills at 7 after watching his younger sister take lessons. His mom, Patricia Arellano, beamed as she watched her son play.
For some families, the event was their first encounter with the MIND Institute. Deborah Yost learned about Family Time at the MIND after her son participated in Camp MIND this summer. She was happy to see familiar faces at the picnic, including some from camp.
“It’s a nice way to reach families,” Yost said. “They (staff) put in so much thought and attention to detail into this event.”
A surprise visit and a $2,000 donation from NorCal Challengers was the cherry on top of a great day. The club of local Dodge Challenger enthusiasts brought their finest vehicles out for a car show in the parking lot and gave away school supplies as families went home.
The next Family Time at the MIND event will be a Fall Festival in October.