Painting the town purple, together

Annual parade celebrating those with special needs will see 16 landmarks lit up in purple

Highlights of the Nov 5 Purple Parade were announced yesterday at a picnic at Suntec City attended by more than 200 people.
Highlights of the Nov 5 Purple Parade were announced yesterday at a picnic at Suntec City attended by more than 200 people. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Iconic landmarks in Singapore, from Marina Bay Sands to the Esplanade and Clemenceau Bridge, will light up in purple at the end of this month to celebrate those with special needs.

This lighting up of 16 buildings and bridges from Oct 29 to Nov 5 is one of the new features of the annual Purple Parade, a carnival and celebration for the special-needs community.

The parade, to be held on Nov 5, is now in its fourth year. It will move from Hong Lim Park to a glitzier backdrop outside Suntec City.

Ms Denise Phua, adviser to the Purple Parade committee and Mayor of Central Singapore District, said: "Bringing the Purple Parade to the city district signifies a new peak for the special-needs movement."

The new location "reinforces the message that persons with special needs are an integral part of our big Singapore family", she added.

Ms Phua announced highlights of this year's parade yesterday, at a picnic at Suntec City attended by over 200 supporters of the movement, including friends and family of the 12 ambassadors to the Purple Parade.

Last year's parade was attended by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wifeMrs Lee. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and his wife, Ms Jane Ittogi, will be guests of honour this year.

Organisers expect 10,000 people to attend, up from the more than 7,000 at last year's parade.

The faces of Purple Parade this year include Mr See Toh Sheng Jie, 20, the Pathlight School student with autism who designed the dinosaur pouch Mrs Lee carried to the White House in August; and former navy man Jason Chee, 32, who is now a para-athlete.

The parade will feature a contingent march-past, comprising 2,000 participants in 44 groups. They will enter the external area of Suntec City, where the fountain is, from Raffles Boulevard. Like other years, there will be a concert performed by some 30 groups, and a carnival selling souvenirs, food and drinks.

While the movement celebrates those with special needs, Ms Phua said it had everyone's support.

About 1,500 volunteers are helping out. Suntec City, Starbucks and buildings involved in the light-up are also showing their support.

"It's a yearly event where people with and without special needs gather to remind the rest of Singapore that we (people with special needs) are here, we're part of the Singapore family, and we want to remain a main chapter of the Singapore story," said Ms Phua.

Mr See Toh's father Jason See Toh described the parade as "an amazing opportunity to bring awareness to the public about autism".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline Painting the town purple, together. Subscribe