Alex Lisotto, 9, a third-grader from North Fayette, had fun bowling and playing games during a trip to the Latitude 40 entertainment center at The Pointe at North Fayette.
His most exciting moment was capturing a toy in the arcade's claw machine.
"It took me a lot of tries to get it, and I got a Fruit Ninja," Alex said, noting that the plush toy looks like an apple or strawberry. "It was awesome."
Latitude 40 sponsored a bowling and pizza party Sunday for about 35 families whose children participate in the North Fayette parks and recreation program called PALS -- Providing Assistance, Love and Support.
The group provides recreational and social opportunities geared toward youth and adults with special needs, such as people with autism, Down syndrome, limited speech ability, and cognitive or physical disabilities.
About 70 guests attended, including residents of North Fayette, Oakdale, Findlay and other communities.
Becky Lisotto of North Fayette, her husband, Mike, and daughter, Maddy, accompanied Alex, who experiences high-functioning autism.
Mrs. Lisotto, a PALS board member, said the activity not only provided a setting for children to interact with each other but also offered an opportunity for parents and siblings to be involved.
"This event was nice for the whole family to enjoy with the kids," Mrs. Lisotto said. "It was special in that respect."
Maddy, 12, a sixth-grader at West Allegheny Middle School, said she doesn't spend as much time with her little brother as she used to because they both are busy with sports, so she hung out with him at the party.
She even gave Alex her game room credits so he could redeem them for a bigger prize.
"I thought it was fun," Maddy said. "It was a good experience, and I'm glad Latitude did that for us."
The donated party package included arcade games, bumper bowling and a lunch of pizza (some made with gluten-free dough for special diets), fruit, chips and drinks.
The business also gave the children backpacks embroidered with their names and stuffed with Latitude 40 coupons and game room credit s.
"Latitude 40 could not have been nicer or more courteous and helpful and understanding of the kids," Mrs. Lisotto said.
The event was sponsored by Latitude Cares, the charitable wing of the entertainment center's privately held parent company, Latitude Global Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla.
Formed in 2011, the foundation supports not-for-profit organizations in communities surrounding Latitude Global venues in Jacksonville, Indianapolis and North Fayette. Philip Alia, chief marketing officer of Latitude Global, said the charity has a special focus on helping children in challenging situations.
Mr. Alia said many of the company's leaders are parents, "and it just hurts us to see children suffering, so we decided as a group and organization that we want to make these children's lives better."
Latitude Cares vision statement says children and their families deserve time to forget about their daily stresses and focus on having fun.
"We're ecstatic to be in Pittsburgh, and we're really excited to be able to give back to the community," Mr. Alia said.
The two-story, 65,000-square-foot facility opened in November at 200 Quinn Drive. The venue includes a restaurant, a sports bar, bowling lanes, an arcade, a live performance stage and other facilities.
Brent W. Brown, the CEO and founder of Latitude Global, is a 1987 Montour High School graduate.
North Fayette parks and recreation director Bob Brozovich said he was pleased to partner with the center to hold the party.
"It's an activity the PALS group would look into doing anyway, so why not take them there and get a local business involved," he said.neigh_west
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.