The Arc partners with business to serve special needs clients


As soon as the final silver suitcase opened on the screen, 200 tickets began streaming out of the “Deal or No Deal” game.

Dakota Davis’ excitement could be heard all around the inside of Racin’ Mason Pizza and Fun Zone in Seymour.

“I loved ‘Deal or No Deal’ when I was growing up,” he said of the popular television game show that’s also offered as an arcade game.

With all of the tickets in his hands, Davis was asked if he was having fun at the event, which came about through a partnership between Racin’ Mason and The Arc of Jackson County.

“Oh yeah!” he exclaimed.

He appreciated the opportunity for special needs kids and adults, who had two hours on different days last week to play arcade games, jump in bouncy houses, play miniature golf or laser tag or ride in bumper cars.

“This is pretty good. It gives you a break from the house,” Davis said before turning in the tickets and picking out a toy train as his prize.

Melanie O’Neal, planning coordinator for The Arc, said Racin’ Mason provided the bouncy houses, laser tag, putt-putt golf and bumper cars at no cost and gave “a great rate” for tokens for her clients to use on arcade games.

An anonymous donation allowed for all of the clients to receive goody bags at the end of each event.

“We just wanted to give our clients something to do because they’ve been shut in for so long,” O’Neal said, referring to the kids and adults not being able to interact with others due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conversation between O’Neal and Racin’ Mason co-owner Kelly Mason started last year when they were tagged in a Facebook post. Mason and her husband, Harold, said they would love to host an event for the special needs population.

“Harold and I had actually talked about doing something like this before COVID hit,” Kelly said. “Then we knew once COVID was here, there was absolutely no way anything like this could be done. Then when I saw that Facebook post, I’m like, ‘There’s a chance. Here’s our opportunity. Let’s go for it.’”

The pandemic prevented the event from happening last year, but talk resumed a few months ago.

O’Neal presented the idea to her board of directors, and board member Shelie Brummett volunteered to get it all set up with the Masons and spread the word to group homes, service providers and special education teachers in the area.

“We want to be able to reach everybody in the community, so I figured this was a good way to do that. I’m just really glad that we finally made it come true,” Kelly said, smiling.

“Working in the nonprofit field, I’m always looking for something new to offer to our clients and their families,” O’Neal said. “Kelly lives here, she’s Jackson County and so we’re keeping business dollars right here. This is a phenomenal place.”

The event gave special needs families and caregivers a safe environment that wasn’t overwhelming or overstimulating, O’Neal said.

“I think parents and caregivers could come here and feel like this is a safe, controlled atmosphere for them to bring their child versus going to a public place that isn’t going to work out with the general population,” she said. “Speaking from a special needs family’s perspective, I love that we can come here, our daughter can enjoy it and there’s no judgment by anyone. Everyone here is nonjudgmental. It’s just good, clean fun.”

Kelly said Racin’ Mason would like to collaborate with The Arc again in the future.

“It’s something we wanted to get started, something we want to continue doing,” she said.

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The Arc of Jackson County:

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