News Article Details

Almost $10,000 raised from autism walk

The Spectator - 4/18/2018

SOMERSET - The Walk the Walk: Stepping in the Right Direction for Autism event that was held at Somerset Berkley Regional High School on April 7 raised $9,497 that will be used to award mini grants to help teachers in their classrooms.

"We're thrilled with that amount," said Julie Schoonover, one of the organizers of the walk, along with fellow special education teacher Andrea Reagan.

Schoonover said a committee will be formed to decide on what the money is used for. She said the money could be used to pay for things in classrooms that will help students with their sensory skills, to improve curriculum, for software or other things that will benefit students.

Schoonover said the main purpose of the walk was not to raise money, but to bring awareness and acceptance to children with autism.

Schoonover said the walk opened up a lot of conversations about autism. She said there were people there whose grandchildren were just diagnosed with autism.

"We had these little beautiful moments that happened that meant more than money to us," Schoonover said.

There was a week of activities related to autism at North Elementary School leading up to the walk. Author Steven Manchester made a presentation about his book, Perfect Chase: One Reflection of Autism. The school also had an interactive bulletin board related to autism and a book bin with different books about autism. Teachers also shared videos about autism.

Student Emma Eleuterio also read a letter she wrote about her thoughts about her younger brother Jack recently being diagnosed with autism to three classes at North Elementary School. A video of Emma reading the letter can be seen on YouTube. She read her letter at last week's Somerset School Committee meeting. Emma said Jack is cute, funny, smart, super sweet and loves to cuddle. She said Jack loves to watch Mickey Mouse and jump in his ball pit. She said Jack and her like to run around the house playing tag and sometimes he lets her dress him up and put bows in his hair.

"I love my brother and he does not talk yet so he doesn't say I love you Emma, but I know he loves me by giving me tight hugs," Emma said. "When Jack wants something, he shows us by taking our hands and bringing it to what he wants. Jack and I help each other with learning new things. I do puzzles with him and he listens when I practice my night time reading."

Emma said that what autism means to her is that Jack reacts differently to things around him.

"I want to share with you that some of the things he does is different, but he also does a lot of the same things as you and me," Emma said. "When Jack is mad, he stomps his feet, when Jack is sad, he pouts his lips, and when Jack is happy, he flaps his hands back and forth. I do the same things, except when I am happy, I jump up and down."

Emma said that it is important that everyone knows that just because people see others doing things differently, they should be nice to them and be their friends because everyone is different and that's what makes everyone so special. She said if people see her and Jack, they should say hi and if they see his hands flapping that means he is excited to meet the person and they made a new friend.

Somerset School Committee member Victor Machado said Emma should be named the "Big Sister of the Year."

"It's a great letter," he said.

Schoonover said the walk, which also included informational booths related to autism, activities for children that were run by the Unified track and field team and varsity track and field team at Somerset Berkley Regional High School and food booths, will be an annual event.

"We will continue this and hope to see you all there again," she said.


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