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Silver Dollar City unveils new calming space | Local News

Silver Dollar City, in collaboration with Mercy, unveiled their all-new and first ever Family Calming Space on Saturday, May 14.

The unveiling of the calming space at Red Gold Heritage Hall, which coincided with the annual Mercy Day at the 1880s theme park, was created for guests with special needs who experience sensory overload.

Silver Dollar City Theme and Atmosphere Coordinator Jessica Loftis provided tours of the newly opened calming space to attendees as she explained the many different features found inside.

“Everything in the room is textured, including the walls. It’s done that way, because I felt like sensory is a really big deal and texture feeling is a really big deal when it comes to, especially autism, and anyone on that spectrum. Every element in the room is some sort of texture,” Loftis said. “The book around the room is Dr. Seuss’ ‘My Many Colored Days. I read it with my own son and for us it worked, so I thought you know it would be kind of cool, so we took the book, broke it apart and made it into photos on the wall.”

On top of the small bed or “crash pad” in the room, another major focal point is the “Textile Wall,” which depicts the Frisco Silver Dollar City Train coming out of a tunnel. Loftis credits Silver Dollar City Artist Gage Becker for helping her come up with the design for the textured mural. 


“I asked him, ‘Gage, can you draw me something that’s just kind of basic, but it’s Silver Dollar City and make it really kind of coloring book like.’ He did a great job and I took that picture over to our park maintenance team. I said, ‘Here’s what I’m thinking. I know it’s crazy, but work with me. I really want to have a bunch of textures on it. I want it to kind of be dimensional.’ They took that coloring book page, redrew it out like seven or eight times, so that they could have different layers and different pieces, and cut it all out.”

Once the piece was cut out, it was ready to be painted, which Loftis said she picked up a new skill to complete.

“I learned how to do texture painting, which was all new. We painted it and we glued all the beads, all the rocks and all of that and then they took all the separate textured pieces and put it all back together, but they had to put it together from the back to the front, so there wasn’t any nails or anything showing,” Loftis said. “There’s artificial grass and stuff like that. There’s true wood on there. We epoxied it, so there wouldn’t be any splinters or anything like that. You’ll still feel the roughness of the wood in the railroad ties.”

Mercy Women and Children’s Emergency Department Executive Director and mother of a 21-year old autistic son Jennifer Murray was also on-site for the unveiling. Murray shared as she entered the room, she immediately began to tear up as she thought about the gaming changing impact the calming space will provide families with autism.

“We always had to have an exit strategy when we would come to Silver Dollar City, because Andrew, when he was ready to go, he was ready to go. I never want to say that he ruined it for his brothers, but as hard as it is to be Andrew’s mom, to be his siblings is every bit as challenging. They’re here and they’re having fun riding rides and playing on things and Andrew says, ‘I’m out. I’m done, I need to shut down’ and we would have to leave,” Murray said. “To be able to have a space like this, would have been so incredible to be able to go in and take him and just calm down and get away from it all and be able to come back out and play some more would have been so incredible.”

Murray also explained the effects the calming space will have on children and adults with autism and how it will benefit them. 

“Some children who are on the spectrum really need to have sensory input to even help block out even the rest of the sensory. Out here it’s loud, people are talking, they’re screaming, they’re having a really great time,” Murray said. “For you and I that’s nothing. We’re having fun and that’s what you do when you’re at a theme park. For these kids, it’s just too much coming in. So they can go in where it’s quiet and get a little bit of that sensory input, but not too much to help themselves calm down.”       

The calming space is just the first of many future steps being taken since Silver Dollar City entered into a multi-year sponsorship with Mercy. Silver Dollar City Attractions President Brad Thomas said by teaming up with Mercy, they are able to elevate their provisions of family safety, accessibility, good health and comfort to their guests. 

“We are incredibly proud to take the heritage of two incredible companies here in the Ozarks, Silver Dollar City and Mercy communities,” Thomas said. “Blend us together for a partnership together that can do amazing stuff for our guests who are coming here to have fun and want to do it in a fun, safe, entertaining way that brings our families closer together. Mercy has that passion and we’re going to work together in the next coming years.”

Mercy Springfield Communities President Craig McCoy echoed Thomas’ statement, but also added how important it was for them to continue providing services outside of the hospital walls. 

“Thinking about how we impact not just an individual with sensory sensitivities, but the family as a whole. How do we help keep them together,” McCoy said. “This was an opportunity to partner with an organization that does fun extremely well and be able to bring something in the healthcare space, specific around autism and other sensory disorders as well.”

McCoy also shared some of the additional components SDC guests will come to benefit from as a result of the park’s partnership with Mercy.

“You’ll see Mercy throughout the park with the hand sanitizing stations, the nursing rooms for new mothers and the calming space,” McCoy said. “The first-aid activities, strollers, wheelchairs and I think there are a lot more opportunities that will come from this as we continue to dig in and look at how we can continue to support the community. 

Located within the same building as the sensory room, new mothers will also have the chance to breastfeed or pump in private. At the unveiling, SDC leadership also showcased their Mother’s Nursing Station, which features two separate rooms.

To learn more about their partnership with Mercy or additional information on the services offered at the park visit  

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