Rhonda and Angel Koh took over Play Kitsap and transformed it into Ahoy Kitsap Playland in 2016.
                                (Michelle Beahm/Kitsap News Group file photo)

Rhonda and Angel Koh took over Play Kitsap and transformed it into Ahoy Kitsap Playland in 2016. (Michelle Beahm/Kitsap News Group file photo)

Ahoy Kitsap provides fun for children with special needs

BREMERTON — Rhonda Koh, owner of Ahoy Kitsap Playland, said it’s important everyone have access to the fun that can be had in the playland.

That’s why, in the fall, winter and early spring, Ahoy Kitsap Playland hosts sensory friendly nights.

On those nights, the playland is reserved for up to 30 children — that number is set to ensure “low-key, quiet and stress-free” fun for kids with special needs who may be overstimulated during regular business hours.

“We never make it so these kids can’t come in during normal hours,” Koh said. “We have autistic kids who come in all the time … but this is a time for those parents (who may have three or four special needs kids) when it would be the optimal time for them.”

Koh said they typically have sensory friendly nights from fall to spring because in the summer months, it’s generally slower anyway, so there’s not usually a need to have designated nights.

Sensory friendly nights take place ffrom 5-8 p.m. one Monday a month. Reservations are required to avoid overbooking. Schedule information and an online reservation form are available at www.ahoy kitsap.com/events.

“Providing accessibility to children with special needs or low income is a priority to me,” Koh said.

Along with the sensory friendly nights, Ahoy Kitsap Playland works with Kitsap Accessible Family Events (K.A.F.E.) to provide holiday events for kids with special needs; last year, the playland hosted Easter and Halloween events. The holiday events can have up to 50 children in attendance, but there are more helpers to ensure things run smoothly.

“We have lots of families that are just grateful we provide these times,” Koh said of the sensory friendly events. “We do it because it’s important to provide that access and opportunity.”

Ahoy Kitsap also works with Kitsap Mental Health to ensure foster children in their care have access to the playland as well. In addition, when a happy customer decided to “pay it forward,” Koh said, she directed the customer to do so on behalf of low-income children who may not otherwise have access. The customer donated $150; Ahoy Kitsap matched it with $250, resulting in a total of 40 free entries for low-income families.

Koh said she’s working to provide a few days over the summer that will provide access specifically to foster children.

“That’s just something that’s near and dear to my heart,” Koh said. “There’s lots of families who can’t afford to pay admission, so we want to find ways to provide access.”

Ahoy Kitsap Playland began as Play Kitsap in 2012. It quickly became a popular spot for families of young children to come play, relax and have fun. In October 2015, Rhonda and Angel Koh took over Play Kitsap and started to transform the business from an inflatable play center to a destination indoor children’s playground.

Learn more at www.ahoykitsap.com.

Michelle Beahm is online editor for Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.

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