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Press Release

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Sensory Activation Vehicle Makes New Orleans Debut

Beignet Fest Foundation provides unique space for local events to be more inclusive for those with sensory processing disorders

New Orleans (April 13, 2023) – Today, Beignet Fest Foundation unveiled its latest mission-driven project to support and empower autistic children and others with sensory needs in the New Orleans community. With proceeds from the 2022 Beignet Fest in partnership with Children’s Hospital New Orleans, Beignet Fest Foundation commissioned KultureCity to build a sensory activation vehicle that can be used at events to make them more inclusive for those with sensory processing disorders often associated with autism and other conditions. The fully equipped, tow-along trailer provides a safe space of respite and decompression for individuals who may become overwhelmed from the sights, sounds and crowds at many of the city’s beloved, local events.

“So much of New Orleans is about gathering to enjoy our culture, and our hope is that with our sensory activation vehicle, families can get out and do that together more often, bringing along their loved ones who may need a place to take a break, explore, play and reset,” said Sherwood Collins, executive director of Beignet Fest Foundation.

Inside the trailer, which has been dubbed “Benny’s Sensory Activation Vehicle”, the walls and floor are lightly carpeted, and the lighting is kept low. There’s air conditioning to keep it cool. All the features are specially designed to calm the mind and engage users. Elements include a bubble wall where individuals can watch water flow in a series of frames that glow different colors. There are also wooden puzzles, soft bean bag chairs, an interactive colored-light panel and textured elements for tactile sensory input. Working with Children’s Hospital’s Autism Center, more activities will be added as organizers gauge reaction and usage of the trailer.

“We are thrilled to help make the sensory activation vehicle possible through our support of the Beignet Fest Foundation. At Children’s Hospital New Orleans, we believe in creating therapeutic spaces where all kids can have fun and explore,” said Lucio A. Fragoso, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital New Orleans. “Beignet Fest and the Beignet Fest Foundation are making a meaningful impact for our autism community, and we’re proud support them in this effort.”

In addition to the sensory activation vehicle, sensory bags that include items like headphones and fidget toys will be available to borrow through the program at events.

“At KultureCity, our mission is to make the nevers possible. We want to create spaces with sensory accessibility,” said Uma Srivastava, executive director of KultureCity. “From outdoor events like festivals and sporting events to indoor events like exhibitions and conferences, the sensory activation vehicle ensures that all guests can be included.”

Beignet Fest Foundation organizers are currently recruiting staff to facilitate the activities for the sensory activation vehicle onsite at events. Staffers will go through training and certification with KultureCity to become knowledgeable and adept at working with individuals with sensory needs.

In the effort to make New Orleans festivals more inclusive, New Orleans & Co. is a partnering with Beignet Fest Foundation to underwrite the cost of having the fully staffed sensory activation vehicle at 10 festivals this year, which will be identified in the coming weeks.

“New Orleans is known far and wide as a city that is welcoming to everyone,” said Walt Leger, president & CEO of New Orleans & Co. “We are happy to support this community project to make New Orleans an even more welcoming and accessible city.  This vehicle will empower residents and visitors who may become overstimulated at many of our festivals and celebrations to be able to attend and participate in a meaningful way and add to the beautiful sense of community we celebrate in New Orleans.”

To learn more about Benny’s Sensory Activation Vehicle and how you can make your upcoming event more inclusive for those with sensory needs, email info@beignetfest.com.

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About Beignet Fest/Beignet Fest Foundation: Beignet Fest is a premier food festival in Louisiana that celebrates one of New Orleans’s most iconic dishes: the beignet. From traditional sweet treats with powdered sugar to savory options paired with seafood, cheese and more, Beignet Fest serves up the best beignets in the South all in one place on one day. Proceeds from Beignet Fest benefit the Beignet Fest Foundation, which raises awareness and support for programs in Greater New Orleans that serve autistic youth and their families.

About KultureCity: KultureCity is a leading non-profit recognized nationwide for using its resources to revolutionize and effect change in the community for those with sensory needs. Since the program’s inception, KultureCity has created over 1,000 sensory-inclusive venues in six countries, including special events such as the NFL Pro-Bowl, NFL Super Bowl, MLB World Series, and MLB All Star Weekend.

 About Children’s Hospital New Orleans: Children’s Hospital New Orleans is a 263-bed, non-profit academic pediatric medical center that offers comprehensive healthcare services, including over 40 pediatric specialties, delivered just for children. With more than 600 pediatric providers, Children’s offers a comprehensive array of pediatric healthcare services in Louisiana and the Gulf South. In addition to its main campus located in New Orleans, the hospital operates a network of specialty clinics across Louisiana, including in Covington, Baton Rouge, Alexandria, Lafayette, and Diamondhead, MS. Children’s offers primary care services at 12 convenient locations and remotely via its Virtual Care for Kids program. Children’s is a proud member of LCMC Health, a Louisiana-based, not-for-profit hospital system which also includes New Orleans East Hospital, Touro, University Medical Center New Orleans, West Jefferson Medical Center, East Jefferson General Hospital, Tulane Medical Center, Lakeview Regional Medical Center, and Tulane Lakeside Hospital. Learn more at chnola.org.

About New Orleans & Co.: New Orleans & Company is the tourism and hospitality industry’s official destination sales, marketing and trade organization, responsible for driving over $10 billion of diverse annual business to the regional cultural economy. We attract leisure and cultural travel, business meetings, conventions, weddings, festivals, sporting and special events to New Orleans in a highly competitive global environment. Founded in 1960, New Orleans & Company is committed to celebrating the richness of our culture while creating jobs, building careers, and enhancing the quality of life for every New Orleanian.

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