Stony Brook, NY, Oct. 19, 2018 –– While some sports fans look forward to a weekend of tailgating and loudly cheering on their favorite college team from their stadium seats, others may be overwhelmed by loud sounds of cheering fans, celebratory fireworks or the halftime show. Stony Brook University Athletics is working with KultureCity to make Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, Island Federal Arena and all of the programs and events hosted within them sensory inclusive. Made possible by a gift from alumnus Antony Bonavita ’99, ’09, and his wife Jaclyn Bonavita, this new initiative will promote an accommodating and positive experience for all guests and fans with a sensory issue that visit LaValle Stadium and Island Federal Arena.
To become certified, more than 80 athletics staff members at Stony Brook were trained by leading medical professionals on how to recognize guests and fans with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation. Sensory bags, equipped with noise canceling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads will also be available to all guests at the venue who may feel overwhelmed by the environment. About 20 percent of the population suffers from a disability, and 80 percent of that 20 percent — or four of every 25 people — have disabilities you cannot see.
“We are delighted to work with KultureCity to make our venues sensory inclusive,” said Shawn Heilbron, Director of Athletics for Stony Brook University. “It is exciting to be able to provide these essential services for those fans with sensory processing needs so that everyone can have an amazing experience when they come to cheer on the Seawolves. This initiative is important to all of us here at Stony Brook University,” he said.
Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by individuals with autism, dementia, PTSD and other similar conditions. One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to overstimulation and noise, which is an enormous part of the environment in venues like LaValle Stadium and Island Federal Arena. With its new certification, Stony Brook is now better prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible when attending any event at LaValle Stadium and Island Federal Arena.
“As graduates of Stony Brook University, my wife Jaclyn and I hold a very special place in our heart for our alma mater. And as parents of a child on the autism spectrum, we understand and appreciate the difficulties that face children and adults who have sensory challenges,” said Bonavita, who started his career in athletics facilities management at Stony Brook University and is now the Senior Vice President for Facility Operations with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena. “We are grateful to make this gift to let parents and the Long Island community know that everyone is welcome at Stony Brook,” he said.
Stony Brook University becomes the fourth university nationally to be certified as sensory inclusive along with Adelphi University, Boise State University (Taco Bell Arena) and North Carolina State University (Reynolds Coliseum and Carter Finley Stadium).
“To know that you soon will be able to see families attend a football or basketball game, a true community binding experience, with their loved ones who have a sensory challenge and who were not able to previously attend, is truly a heartwarming moment,” Traci Johnson, KultureCity Executive Director, said. “Our communities are what shapes our lives and to know that Stony Brook University is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in their community is amazing.”
KultureCity is a leading non-profit recognized nationwide for using their resources to revolutionize and effect change in the community for those with sensory needs; not just those with Autism. In the past year alone, KultureCity has created several sensory inclusive venues and events including the NFL Pro-Bowl, NFL Super Bowl, MLB All Star Weekend, 18 NBA arenas, 6 NFL stadiums, 5 NHL arenas 3 MLB arenas, and countless zoos, science centers and aquariums across the nation.
About Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become a flagship as one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with more than 26,000 students and 2,600 faculty members, and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 50 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University is a driving force in the region’s economy, generating nearly 60,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $4.6 billion. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.