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 ’00, ’02, 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.”