LIVINGSTON, NJ — On the last day of Autism Awareness month, Livingston held its annual “Shine a Light On Autism” event at the Memorial Oval, where supporters gathered to help the Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities (LACD) raise funds and awareness for Autism New Jersey.
Brynn Alberici, Autism NJ’s Manager of Special Events and Community Relations, commended the attendees for being at the Oval to support awareness and urged everyone to continue to “choose kindness”—which was this year’s Autism Awareness Month theme.
Five members of Livingston’s “Super Six,” a group of superstar sixth graders who have been fundraising for autism together since second grade as Junior Ambassadors for Autism NJ, were also on hand to help promote awareness and acceptance. Thanks to their efforts to collect money through Facebook fundraisers and standing in front of local businesses, the Super Six presented Alberici with a check for $2,200 this year.
All dressed in blue, residents and supporters were guided by blue lanterns as the night concluded with a walk around the Oval.
"As always, what I found so uplifting about our ‘Shine a Light on Autism’ night event is the way the entire community came together to support us,” said LACD chair Bob Gebroe. “All five members of the town council were there plus three members of the police force, including the Chief of Police, and also two board of education members. Once again, it confirmed to me that the people in the Township of Livingston really do care."
During the event, Gebroe shared some of the highlights from a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which concluded that New Jersey preschoolers have the highest diagnosis of autism in the country and that the prevalence of autism is quickly increasing very quickly.
The statistics also show that the diagnosis rate increased by 43 percent between 2010 and 2014. According to the study, one in 59 children is diagnosed nationally, while the statistic in New Jersey is one in 35. Additionally, three out of four children with autism are boys, and one in 23 4-year-old boys in New Jersey is on the spectrum.
Speaking about Livingston’s commitment to supporting individuals with autism, Mayor Al Anthony noted that the township declared April as “Autism Awareness Month” and presented a proclamation to Gebroe, whom he said is a “hard-working and outstanding” leader.
“The proclamation ‘urged all employees and residents to participate in our town’s activities, in order to become better educated about autism and create a better community for individuals with autism,’” said Anthony. “I must say, the amount of opportunities, volunteers giving back and community involvement did not disappoint. The month ends with this awesome annual event in which we all learn more about what we can do to help.”
Anthony also spoke about some of the related events that were held throughout April, including a ribbon cutting celebrating the opening of resident Heidi Rome’s Moms Spectrum Oasis, an organization that supports mothers of children with autism, as well as fundraisers through Mission Fitness and the Livingston PBA Golf Outing to support Spectrum Works and other autism-related charities.
He concluded by thanking the LACD for making this a successful event year after year as well as “the awe-inspiring work of our own ‘Super Six’ Livingston students, who have raised a tremendous amount of money for Autism New Jersey.” The Super Six consists of Mt. Pleasant Middle School students Michael Ileya, Austin Carr, Samay Malde, Hriday Dabhi, Ritvik Maridi and Ben Best.
Also speaking at the event was Deepa Pisupati, founder of Livingston’s “Let’s Sit Together” initiative, who discussed the importance of inclusiveness and how the mission of “Let’s Sit Together” is to teach children to be kind and to prevent anyone from feeling excluded. Specifically, this initiative encourages children to be compassionate and to sit with anyone who is alone at lunch, on the playground or elsewhere.
Livingston’s Boy Scout Troop 16 provided some entertainment at the event as well, teaching children in attendance how to tie different types of knots.
Many participants purchased “Autism Speaks” bracelets and blue lanterns before walking around The Oval as the sun set. Proceeds from the merchandise sales went to Autism NJ.
For more information about LACD, click HERE.