Inclusion

Dominic Bonavita uses tomato cages to make his inclusion Christmas trees.

Lights and Christmas are two of Dominic Bonavita’s favorite things.

The 11-year-old Avon boy combined them into what he calls inclusion trees.

“We use tomato cages, fold them in circles and cover them with lights,” Dominic said.

Dominic has autism. He loves lights, especially Christmas lights, but lights that are too vivid or sharp make him uncomfortable, his mother, Jackie, said. With her help, Dominic came up with the inclusion trees that allow children and adults to enjoy lights at Christmas.

Each tree takes him about 15 to 20 minutes to make. The trees are topped with bows his mother makes.

“He just loves Christmas,” she said. “He has a real passion for it. He always has.”

That passion led him to decorate the outside of the family’s Avon home with dozens of strings of Christmas lights in addition to making the inclusion trees.

This holiday season, Dominic has sold over 100 inclusion trees, which come in three sizes ranging from about 2 feet to about 4 feet high. Proceeds from the sales go to Kulture City, an Alabama-based organization that advocates for people with autism.

Bonavita figures her son has raised about $2,000.

One of Kulture City’s premier programs is helping create sensory rooms inside arenas, stadiums and other entertainment venues where crowds and noises can overwhelm people with various disabilities.

Dominic got the name for his trees from Kulture City, which has inclusion as its tagline.

“We want everyone to feel comfortable no matter where they are,” Bonavita said. In 2015, an incident at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, where her husband, Anthony, is the arena manager, helped push the family toward the creation of Dominic’s trees, she said.

A mother and her young son who has autism were at the arena for a Cavs game. The boy needs a device to help him speak. An arena security attendant insisted he could not wear the device inside the building.

“The youngster had a meltdown,” Bonavita said. The mom she said contacted Cavaliers management and Anthony Bonavita, who in turn contacted Kulture City. The story made headlines nationally.

Kulture City advocates for sensory rooms in event venues around the country. The rooms are padded and can be used by anyone with disabilities. Jackie Bonavita said adults with PTSD have used them. The map on the Kulture City website shows the location of about 100 venues that have sensory rooms, including the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Kulture City’s website says 1 in 6 people in the country has some sort of sensory processing difficulty. The sensory rooms promote the freedom for anyone to be included in all activities, the website states.

It’s too late to order one of Dominic’s trees this holiday. But he said he would make more next year.

“It’s easy to do and I like making them,” he said.

For information on Kulture City go to kulturecity.org.

Contact this reporter at tcorrigan@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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