Businesses support Surfside Beach autism initiative with #yesyoucan card

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Surfside Beach’s move to be autism friendly, is fully underway as autism awareness month approaches this April.

Back in January, town council proclaimed it would help families with special needs children have a more enjoyable vacation.

Champion Autism Network has worked with the community to raise awareness with local businesses.

Many restaurants and hotels have now signed up to participate by using the #yesyoucan card.

Visitors or locals can present the card for discounts and as a way to let them know there is a child with special needs, without any sort of stigma.

“Just a simple way of saying ‘I’m here, I may need some special attention’ without actually having to say I need special requirements or please separate me,” said Kali Karellas, the director of sales marketing and revenue at Holiday Inn.

It’s one of three hotels in Surfside Beach that have #yesyoucan cards currently available to guests.

“It’s a VIP card is basically how I look at it,” said Karellas, who added many businesses offer discounts as well as special attention.

Karellas says it’s all about fostering a welcoming environment, “so that they feel comfortable to come eat with us, play with us, stay with us. Whatever they’d like to do.”

Area restaurants like Hamburger Joe’s are also participating. Durwood Early is the co-owner and says he’s training his staff to accommodate the guests.

“Letting them know these are special needs kids and putting them in an area of the restaurant where there senses won’t be over loaded,” said Early.

Often, children with autism can be upset by being over-stimulated and Early wants to be welcoming to everyone.

“I have two boys of my own and they’re very healthy and I’m blessed that way, but I hope someone would help me,” Early said.

Hotels like Holiday Inn hope that by better serving those with special needs, it will also drum up business in the slower shoulder seasons by providing an opportunity for special attention.

“Set things up to where we can slowly stream line every family here so they can get the attention they need,” said Karellas who added that everyone in the community should get on board.

“I don’t think there’s any reason why with a little extra effort we all can support families that need our attention,” she said.

The Myrtle Beach International Airport is also supporting the cause with a special room for families to utilize when traveling with children with autism.

It opens on Thursday March 31, just in time for April which is autism awareness month.

There are many events in Surfside Beach throughout the month including:

Surfing Experience
Dates: Fridays – April 1st, 15th and 22nd
Time: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Location: 13th Avenue South Beach Access
By reservation only. Booking required (2) weeks prior to event

Sand Castle Building/Beach Discovery Experience
Dates: Fridays – April 1st, 15th and 22nd
Time: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (concurrent with Surf Experience Event)
Location: 13th Avenue South Beach Access
Conducted by Ripley’s Aquarium

Fire Department Open House and Cookout
Dates: Saturdays – April 16th and 23rd
Time: 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Location: Surfside Beach Fire Department, 115 Hwy. 17 North

Pier Fishing Experience
Dates: Sundays – April 3rd, 17th and 24th
Time: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Location: Surfside Beach Pier, 11 South Ocean Blvd

For more information go to championautismnetwork.com

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