On Sunday March 1st, the Florida Panthers hosted Autism Awareness Night during their match-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers joined forces with Autism Speaks for the event that was powered by South Florida Ford.
The Panthers set up a sensory-friendly lounge for families and their children to have a safe space to play and be able to take a break from watching the game. The room was filled with a coloring station, an inflatable ball pit, an area to play with footballs, soccer balls and more.
Panthers Executive Chairman Peter Luukko believes being involved in the community is vital.
“We are very committed to events like this. It’s very important we support those who support us,” said Panthers Executive Chairman Peter Luukko.
Autism Speaks is the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization founded in February 2005. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism.
Children and their families were given the chance to watch a hockey game while feeling free to take a break from the game at any point in the sensory-friendly lounge.
A portion of all of the tickets purchased for Autism Awareness Night went towards the Autism Speaks organization.
Autism Speaks President Liz Feld hopes this partnership with the Panthers encourages other sports organizations to reach out and do the same.
“We hope it’s the first of many. It sends a message to other people around the country, other people in the NHL who are personally affected that they should step forward and do the same thing. It’s a great way to bring autism out of the shadows and into everyday life,” said Feld.
The Panthers will continue to support the local community and host special events to help spread awareness.
Panthers VP of Marketing Elizabeth Jenkins spearheaded the event internally and joined forces with Chairman of South Florida Ford Allan Young to initiate the partnership with Autism Speaks. Jenkins hopes this partnership with Autism Speaks can continue in the future.
“We definitely want to grow this. I think the way the community has responded, I think it’s something we definitely want to continue in the future,” said Panthers Vice President of Marketing Elizabeth Jenkins, who spearheaded and partnered with Autism Speaks for the event.
For now, the organization hopes Autism Awareness Night will become a yearly event to help educate the local community and raise funds for Autism Speaks.
“We’re really looking forward to having the Panthers engaged in a meaningful way going forward,” said Feld.