For the past 5 years, juggling personal life, graduate school and intense careers hasn’t been enough for educators Jessica LaBella & Julie Greene. They have taken on the commitment of fundraising and walking in the annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks 3 mile benefit event and have proven quite successful in their endeavors.
Port Chester native LaBella even has her daughter Juliet, participate in the walk. “Since she was 2 and in a stroller, Juliet has been raising money and ‘walking’ in this event. It just goes along with how important it is to me! My entire family gets involved in one way or the other,” she says.
LaBella and Greene, of New Rochelle, met as co-teachers in the College of New Rochelle Graduate School Summer Practicum, where they discovered that they were both working as ABA Therapists, SEITs and Early Intervention Therapists throughout Westchester. They clicked once they discovered that they each had a deep love for their students, who ranged from mildly to severely Autistic, and yearned to truly make a difference in their lives. “These children are truly special and unique, and they touched our lives in a way that changed them forever.”
Currently co-teachers in New York City, LaBella and Greene work side by side in the ASD Nest program, which integrates children with high-functioning autism with their neurotypical peers. “They are essentially ‘nested’ within our school; they are taught social strategies to deal with frustrating situations, and our students who are typically developing are learning compassion, understanding and open-mindedness in a way that is embedded in them at an early age. The growth that our children have had throughout the elementary years is monumental! Our program has become a family, a team- it is wonderful!” states LaBella.
The teacher’s walk team, Julica’s Jewels, is continuing its legacy for the 2012 Walk Now for Autism Speaks, being held on June 3rd at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. “We are so proud of our team- we are members of the ‘Grand Club,’ a prestigious group of walkers and teams that have raise over $1,000 for the Walk each year.” The team is gearing up to host its annual benefit concert, featuring Port Chester bands Echo Station and Infectious By Nature. The concert, aptly titled “I Wanna Rock(for Autism)!, is being held May 26th at Dudley’s Parkview in New Rochelle. Local businesses support the fundraiser by donating gift certificates that will be raffled off the night of the concert. “Restaurants, shops, even local artists are donating to our raffle. Our last one was a huge success, and with gift certificates from EuroAsia, Smokehouse, Applebee’s and Longford’s Ice Cream, this year is bound to be even better!” The show is being held Saturday May 26th at 9pm at Dudley’s Parkview, 94 Hudson Park Rd., New Rochelle, NY. Cost is $10 at the door, which is 100% donated to Julica’s Jewels, and gets you 15 raffle tickets. Tickets are sold throughout the night, and raffled off in an exciting intermission between bands.
With 2 young daughters, LaBella understands that not everyone will be available for a night out. “We have also joined forces with the local Applebee’s, and are hosting a Dine and Donate night on May 31st. Applebee’s is generously donating 10% of each bill of everyone who has one of our fliers. This will be a family friendly way to get members of our community together to raise money for this amazing cause.”
For more information on Dine to Donate, I Wanna Rock(for Autism)! or to make a tax-exempt donation, please visit our website at: http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/westchesterfairfield/julicasjewels
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism, and to advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and served as vice chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC for more than twenty years. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.
Autism Speaks is proud of our signature fundraising event which brings together hundreds of thousands of participants annually across the United States and Canada with a common goal of supporting Autism Speaks. This change strengthens the marketing efforts around the Walk program by more directly branding the walks with our name, effectively eliminating any confusion with other autism walks around the world.
Powered by volunteers and families with loved ones on the autism spectrum, this successful grassroots fundraising effort not only generates vital funds for autism research but also raises awareness about the increasing prevalence of autism and the need for increased research funding to combat this complex disorder.