The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted life in every way, but Dr. Katrina Lindsay was determined to not let it ruin an event she has planned for her patients for the past 3 years. A pediatric psychologist who has created a nationally-recognized program at Akron Children’s for children with tic disorders and Tourette syndrome, Dr. Lindsay knows the importance of social interaction for her patients.
For her 4th annual TIC (Together In the Community) Night Out, she knew they could not return to big indoor venues featuring arcade games, trampolines and bowling.
No, the perfect choice was to go “retro” and invite everyone to a classic drive-in movie theater.
Drive-in movie theaters, with their natural social distancing, have seen a resurgence during the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Friday night, about 70 patient families pulled their cars into the Midway Drive-In Theater in Ravenna for a Halloween eve showing of “Hocus Pocus.”
But before the movie, families participated in contests for the best costume and jack-o-lantern carving. A few parents and one patient spoke from a stage in front of the screen, and cars flashed their headlights as a way to applaud Dr. Lindsay’s remarks, such as when she predicted her patients will be our country’s future doctors, artists, architects, and engineers.
Zac and Shana Ware, with their boys Taylor, 11, and Cameron, 9, arrived early to get a prime parking location for the movie. Cameron, who was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome just a year ago, came dressed as “YouTube” star Unspeakable.
“Oh, my goodness, we have learned so much from Dr. Lindsay,” said Shana. “Everyone at Akron Children’s has really helped him understand Tourette’s and the brain science behind it.”
She went on to say that both she and Cameron have made several friends through the program – and the friendships have provided great support and a feeling of not being alone.
“We have grown together as mother and son,” she said.
It was chilly night with temperatures dipping below 40 degrees, but Chloe Wallace and her friend, Aubrey, had a very comfortable viewing area in the back of her parents’ car with a pile of warm blankets and large pillows. Chloe was invited by Dr. Lindsay to design the t-shirts for the night.
“When Dr. Lindsay called, I immediately came up with this idea that combined Halloween with the theater – eyeballs, popcorn, movie – and I was super excited about it,” said Chloe.
Designated as a Center for Excellence by the Tics & Tourette Association, Akron Children’s has been recognized as having an exceptional level of care, treatment and research in Tourette syndrome and tic disorders. The goal is to diagnose and treat children and teens, and minimize the symptoms in 6 weeks with a proven therapy called Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT).
With the support of donors like Howard Hanna, the Ganley Auto Group and Midway Drive-In Theater and several vendors offering steep discounts, the event was free of charge for families. About a dozen volunteers from Akron Children’s NeuroDevelopmental Science Center, the Akron Children’s Foundation and the corporate sponsors performed a variety of roles, such as serving a “car hops” to bring t-shirts and treat bags to the cars.
Dr. Lindsay was thrilled that, with the support of the hospital’s leadership, she was able to make her social event happen this year despite all the challenges of the pandemic.
She noted that she has recently been working with a patient who has not left his house in months because of the profoundness of his tics. He initially did not plan to attend for fear of being in public. But bravely, she said, he told her this week he had changed his mind and planned to attend.
“This event was made for kids like him,” she said. “How incredible is that?”