The Play-Place originally opened in August 2016.

The Play-Place originally opened in August 2016.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Play-Place special needs center prepares for the holidays

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 7, 2022

 The nonprofit Play-Place Autism & Special Needs Center in Sterling Heights offers activities, therapy and more to children and adults who have special needs.

The nonprofit Play-Place Autism & Special Needs Center in Sterling Heights offers activities, therapy and more to children and adults who have special needs.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


STERLING HEIGHTS — A pair of holiday-themed events will help make the season bright for locals with special needs.

On Dec. 11, the Play-Place Autism & Special Needs Center in Sterling Heights plans to welcome the community of “all ages, all diagnoses and all cognitive levels” to its campus for its annual North Pole Stroll. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Christmas party will give people with special needs and their families plenty of activities to enjoy, such as dinner, games, crafts, caroling and a Santa visit. The event will also give a present to each attending child.

Play-Place founder Shell Jones said this is the second time the Christmas event has been set up as a stroll, and she said the stroll in its current form developed as a family-friendly holiday event in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the rise of what some health experts call a “tridemic” — COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus — Jones said the Play-Place plans to continue doing the stroll as it did last year.

She said the day will be divided into scheduled blocks of limited gatherings — about 40 to 50 eventgoers may attend per hour. Jones explained that the Christmas event is an inclusive safe space for the children and families, particularly children who have physical or cognitive disabilities, or anxiety issues.

“There’s more space, shorter lines for the kids that get overwhelmed with crowds, all of those things, sensory-friendly features,” she said. “People really loved it.”

Jones said about 150 people attended last year’s stroll, and she said she is hoping to have just as many or even more this time. The stroll is sponsored by the Wierszewski Foundation, the Rotary Club of Clawson, Richmond Recycling and Zeta Amicae sorority.

Admission costs $5 per person, and tickets may be bought by visiting or by calling (586) 254-6533.

The Play-Place, which opened along Mound Road in August 2016, is a nonprofit that is designed to support children and adults who have special needs, as well as their families. It offers fun activities, therapy, education, job training and more.

Jones said her center’s programs are “continuously growing.” Some of the latest offerings include respite programs for caregivers of children with special needs, as well as an upcoming applied behavioral analysis program that’s a standard therapy for autism, she said.

To support the center’s services, the Play-Place has a Wrap it up for Autism fundraiser that is running Nov. 25-Dec. 24.

The fundraiser’s admission costs $25, and event proceeds will go to the Play-Place. According to Jones, participants may drop in during the Play-Place’s hours of operation, and they can wrap as many gifts as they can carry with provided materials.

“For two hours, they get all their supplies, an array of wrapping paper. We have tables set up; we have got bows, tape, you name it. We have snacks and refreshments for them while they are wrapping.”

The Play-Place is conducting the event with support from the Wierszewski Foundation. Jones said the foundation has supported the Play-Place “pretty much from the beginning.”

Greg Wierszewski, chair of the foundation’s board of directors, said the fundraiser will help participants with wrapping paper costs. In a statement, he added that his organization is excited about the event and believes in enacting the change it wants to see.

“Meeting Shell and being part of her vision for Play-Place is an inspiration and encompasses our mission of being that change,” he said.

Buy tickets and learn more about the Wrap it up for Autism fundraiser by visiting

Find out more about the Play-Place, 39337 Mound Road in Sterling Heights, by visiting