Special-needs children have a night of holiday music and fun at Play to Learn Center

Glendale Adventist Medical Center held its annual holiday celebration at the Play to Learn Center in Eagle Rock, bringing families with special-needs children together for fun activities.

The center, which is operated by the hospital, provides physical, occupational and speech pediatric therapy for children with developmental disabilities. It cares for youth from birth through 21 years old, but the center is usually filled with children younger than 7.

For one night, clinic manager Traci Martinez and her team transformed the center into a holiday jamboree, where kids and their families could roam around and discover activity rooms, including a balloon room, a space where children could make artificial snow and an arts-and-crafts area.

"It's just really celebrating our kids and trying to give back," Martinez said. "We serve a population that tends to be socioeconomically disadvantaged — not all — but we do see a lot of parents from the Highland Park and Los Angeles area, too."

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The central hub of the party featured musician Allen G. Nazarian, who played a variety of tunes that had the children, regardless of their disability, jumping and dancing.

"When we play music, the kids react so incredibly to it. I just saw one of the very shy kids start dancing in his seat once the music played," Nazarian said. "For me, this is the best gig that I do."

Nazarian also brought a violinist from his 16-piece orchestra to perform.

South Pasadena resident John Farley discovered the Play to Learn Center nearly a decade ago and has taken all three of his children in for help with speech, occupational and feeding therapy.

"The staff here just goes far and beyond the call of duty in helping these kids in need," Farley said. "This isn't a fill-in-the-blank type of place. They really cater to the needs of the individual child."

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Jeff Landa, jeff.landa@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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