Magic day for Down's syndrome kids

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2006, 12:00am

Children get to meet their favourite characters when Hong Kong Disneyland treats 50 families to a free day at the park

About 100 children and their parents from the Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association spent a day with their favourite characters at Hong Kong Disneyland for an early Christmas celebration last Sunday.

'I like Mickey and Minnie most,' said Poon Wing-yee, 7. She could not help hugging the two characters during a group photo in front of the theme park's castle. It was the fourth time she had visited the park.

For many, however, it was their first time. 'Our parents were very excited at the meeting when they heard about this visit,' the association's social worker Amy Ngan Yuk-ying said.

'This is a rare opportunity for our low-income members, who cannot afford the entry fee. So we gave priority to families who had never come before.'

The theme park sponsored 50 families from the association to visit free. It also gave out meal coupons. Twenty Disneyland volunteers - called 'voluntears' - served as tour guides and the group split into 10 teams.

Wing-yee's group began with the space adventure ride Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. Teammate, Tina Mar Wai-ting, 12, said shyly she was longing to see the character.

Ching Wai-chi, 17, and her mother were first-timers. 'We are happy to be here today,' Wai-chi's mother smiled. 'It would be expensive if we came at our own expense.' The families later watched an interactive animation show and the tour ended at about noon, after which they enjoyed free time in the park for the rest of the day.

Two volunteers, both from the park's human resources department, said they were happy to spend time with the families. 'The children are very cute,' Vanessa Kwok Hui-wai said, 'This experience has changed my views towards children with Down's syndrome. They are more active than I've imagined.'

Francis Chung Tsz-ching added: 'They are very willing to adventure and express themselves freely and directly. I found the event very meaningful.'

The volunteer team's organiser, Fanny Kwong Oi-ying, said she was overwhelmed by the number eager to help that day. 'The quota should be about 10 but I have over 20 people signed up,' she said.

The Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association aims to provide support to families with children who have Down's syndrome. The association is one of the beneficiaries of Operation Santa Claus, which plans to subsidise its low-income members for music and dance classes, and organise two large-scale performances to show off their talents.