Creating opportunities for youth with disabilities and their families to get vaccinated

Volunteers wait as families drive up to the mobile vaccine clinic

When they received the news that their organization would receive Health Equity Grant funds to reduce the sense of isolation in children with disabilities and their families, Creating Opportunities put on their khaki shorts and started planning a big drive-thru safari event.

As a community-based organization for families of children and adults with developmental disabilities in Marion, Polk and Yamhill Counties, they wanted to give families from the region a chance to engage in a fun family outing while still minimizing risk of exposure to their children, many of whom are considered high-risk medically. They immediately reached out to their partners at Salem Health to see if they would be willing to host a mobile vaccine clinic at the event and they agreed.  

Staff and volunteers worked together to transform the mobile vaccine clinic into a rainforest with tropical leaf privacy curtains and plush monkeys hanging around each station, waiting to go home with anyone who received their shot.

“It is important to us that this special event not only provided a safe activity for families while COVID continues to linger, but to also create an opportunity for youth and adults with disabilities to get a vaccine in a comfortable setting,” said Executive Director Cheryl Cisneros.

Lively safari music, a cooling mist and bubbles filled the air as families made their way through the drive-through adventure, starting with the elephant station where they received a tote bag to fill with prizes at each stop, followed by an interactive art project and guessing games at the giraffe and zebra stations. Families were greeted by inflatable lions and tigers at their last stop before heading inside to get their vaccine, all of which helped the families feel happy and relaxed.

Caleb poses for a photo at the safari

“Even though temperatures were in the triple digits, we still had 80 families drive through. We estimate more than 200 participating family members,” said Cisneros. “And thanks to our staff and a few dozen very dedicated volunteers, we achieved what we set out to do: Provide a fun family activity and the opportunity for family members to get vaccinated in a comfortable setting.”

Cisneros encourages other community-based organizations to create an event with a theme and to reach out to local disability organizations to get ideas on how to make the event more comfortable and accessible.

“Knowing that a few people with disabilities and their families felt comfortable getting a COVID vaccine, even during a heat wave, made it all worth it!”