Concerts in the Park, an infamous Santa Clarita event put on every summer open to everyone in the community. It is open to everyone, but it doesn’t mean that it is for everyone.
Dena Bogrow’s daughter Alexandra Bogrow loves to dance. When Dena took Alexandra to Concerts in the Park, she quickly learned that the event was too overstimulating for Alexandra.
“It was just like she loved to dance, but yet she couldn’t get on the dance floor,” said Dena.
Dena wanted a place where Alexandra could dance freely and expressively.
Dena took to her computer and emailed the city’s Arts and Events department her idea of a city-hosted event catered toward the special needs community.
In very little time the city had invited Dena to a meeting, she pitched them her idea, the city approved it and a committee was formed.
On Saturday, Dena was able to witness her dream come alive for the second year in a row at the annual “Free to Be Me” festival, a city of Santa Clarita festival celebrating the special needs community.
“The city and the community has just embraced all of this and I’m just really grateful for that,” said Dena.
Hundreds of community members, both part of the special needs community and not, were at the event enjoying all it had to offer.
Therapy dogs, therapy goats, sensory-friendly games, coloring activities, face painting, basketball, volleyball, cornhole, a “chill zone” and instrument playing were just a few of the activities offered at the event.
“Getting more people involved in offering a wider variety, a wider range of programming at the event is something that we really wanted to do, and I really feel like we achieved that,” said Kyle Lopez, event supervisor for the city of Santa Clarita.
Throughout all of the activities offered, one thing remained true – all in attendance were free to be themselves in a place safe especially for them.
“Free to Be Me” has become the “perfect title” for the event, as Dena said.
“The whole reason that we were trying to come up with a name that could identify the special needs children and free to be me, is literally what I was saying earlier,” said Dena, “where they can express and be themselves.”
Starting at one city event where Dena felt her family’s needs weren’t meant, she now has helped create one fit especially for her family, and families like hers across the Santa Clarita Valley.
“She (Alexandra) came in and she was so happy, just going around everywhere,” said Dena. “She’s not really one to be on her feet very long, but she would not sit down. She was on every table and she was laughing and smiling and just the energy was so good for her.”