QUINCY -- Jennifer Hathaway and her son, Ben, 11, stopped off for cheese fries Thursday morning before testing out some of the rides at Kare Carnival Day at the Knights of Columbus Barbecue.
Some of the Miller Spectacular Shows amusement rides open up during Kare Carnival Day so that those with special needs can ride and play games without all of the flashing lights, noises and crowds.
The Hathaways heard about the event through one of Ben's counselors at Camp Callahan.
"We've never been to anything like this," Hathaway said. "It's something we can do together, and it's friendly for him, which can be hard to find."
Like many families in attendance, the Hathaways tend to avoid the stimulation of carnivals and amusement parks. Kare Carnival Day offers children like Ben experiences that many other children take for granted.
"I love seeing all the differently-abled kids out having a good time," Hathaway said. "Ben has already seen two of his good friends."
Lisa McDonald first brought her daughter, Marissa, 22, out to the Kare Carnival Day two years ago. After experiencing it once, they knew they would be back. For McDonald, watching Marissa go on rides and play games was fun, but the biggest benefit of the event was seeing her daughter's social interactions.
"Marissa enjoys being around other kids and seeing her friends," McDonald said. "The social part is great for her."
This year marked the fifth annual Kare Carnival Day. The event is free for participants to attend, and all the rides are free. Each person receives a T-shirt and $10 in Kare Carnival bucks to spend on food and games.
"They deserve this," said Laura Schreacke, a special education teacher who, along with her brother, Matt, coordinates the event. "Tonight is armband night, and there will be a ton of other kids. This way, they can take their time to decide what they want to eat and what they want to ride."
Schreacke said all involved, from the carnival workers to volunteers and the parents of children with special needs, find the day inspiring. She remembers seeing a carnival employee drop what he was doing to carry a young girl up the slide at last year's carnival.
"It makes me happy," she said. "It means something to the parents and the workers too. Hopefully we can keep doing this and more people find out about it."