FirstEnergy Employees Help Make the Akron Marathon Sensory Inclusive

kulture city sensory vehicle
kulture city sensory vehicle
FirstEnergy employee MaryBeth Emerich volunteers in the KultureCity Sensory Activation Vehicle at the Akron Marathon.

FirstEnergy has been a proud sponsor of the Akron Marathon since its inception. In addition to serving as the presenting sponsor of the event, company employees are embedded in the Akron Marathon from start to finish, from running in the race to volunteering as bike escorts.

Being an Akron Marathon volunteer took on new meaning this year when members of our THRIVE employee business resource group (EBRG) helped to make the 2019 FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon and Team Relay benefiting Akron Children's Hospital the first-ever sensory inclusive marathon.

What is a Sensory Inclusive Marathon?

Sensory inclusion is catering to those with sensory challenges associated with conditions like autism, PTSD, Parkinson’s disease and early onset dementia. In the event that a scene becomes too overwhelming, guests have a safe space to ease the mind and calm the senses.

Thanks to a partnership with KultureCity, a non-profit organization with a mission to revolutionize and effect change in the sensory-needs community, the Akron Marathon offered a Sensory Activation Vehicle near the race finish line. Furnished with bean bags and textured walls, individuals of all ages could visit the vehicle for a quiet and comforting break from the race environment.

Visitors could also pick up sensory inclusive tool kits equipped with resources like noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads.

FirstEnergy Employees Help Marathon Attendees THRIVE

Members of FirstEnergy’s THRIVE EBRG and their families were onsite at the Sensory Activation Vehicle to be a resource to those with sensory needs. THRIVE serves as a resource to FirstEnergy's employees with disabilities and major illnesses, as well as family members and friends who support and assist them.

All volunteers had to take an online training and pass an assessment to work in the KultureCity vehicle. The training reviewed the types of sensory processing disorders, signs that someone might require assistance and how to properly be a resource for someone with a sensory disorder.

“Volunteering in the Sensory Activation Vehicle at the Akron Marathon was a phenomenal experience,” said MaryBeth Emerich, an analyst at FirstEnergy and co-chair of THRIVE. Making the Akron Marathon sensory inclusive was especially personal for Emerich, whose three sons have autism spectrum disorder.

According to Emerich, many attendees stopped by the sensory vehicle to ask questions and get information about sensory inclusion.

“This concept helped to raise awareness about this important community who may not otherwise be comfortable attending an event like the Akron Marathon,” said Emerich. “Thank you to KultureCity for leading the way to making more places inclusive for everyone.”

Visit for more information about how FirstEnergy is fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment.

Organizations that are interested in becoming KultureCity® Sensory Inclusive™ Certified can visit for more information and to apply.


CONTACT: Christy Hajoway, 330-374-6544


Last Modified: November 7, 2019