SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Spotswood High School was decked out in blue on Sunday as its Sposwood DECA Chapter held a special drive-thru for Autism Awareness. The event was organized by Diana Rucinski, Sofia Vieira and Maya Wesen. After the Autism Awareness Walk was canceled by Autism Speaks because of coronavirus concerns, Ruckinski, Vieira and Wesen decided to reinvent the event instead of just letting it end with their donation check from a t-shirt sale. Autism Speaks is the biggest advocacy organization in the United States and was scheduled to have representatives speak at the walk.
"It was important to reinvent the event because we want to educate and spread awareness to the community," Rucinski, Vieira and Wesen explained. "Our manual is focused on community awareness and the best way to do this is to safely gather in an interactive manner, show support and educate our community about autism."
Yesterday, 30 cars drove through the course the teens set up and were greeted by blue decorations and balloons as well as posters explaining some information about the developmental disorder impacting one out of 54 children according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rucinski, Vieira, Wesen and their fellow student volunteers from DECA and adult chaperone all wore blue as well. Blue is the color used on World Autism Awareness Day in April to help raise consciousness about the disorder
"We were able to raise about $325 in donations, which will be deposited and sent to Autism Speaks later this week," Rucinski, Vieira and Wesen said.
The trio raised $1,408 in donations earlier this year from their sale of Autism Awareness t-shirts.
"On printed puzzle pieces, we wrote the names of each person who participated in our event," the teens continued. "These puzzle pieces will be joined together and displayed at the school, to show our complete puzzle. Participants were given the chance to get an autism awareness goodie bag, which was individually wrapped, contained a fact about autism, as well as SHS DECA autism awareness sunglasses."
Many of the participants also dressed in blue to show support for autism awareness and outfitted their cars with streamers, balloons and car paint.
Each year NJ DECA chapters participate in a community service project supporting a different charity. DECA is a co-curricular program preparing students for college as well as professional careers by combining classroom instruction with real-life interactions involving the community and area businesses as well as competitive events.
"We hope everyone left with a new understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder, in a fun and safe way," Rucinski, Vieira and Wesen added. "We want to thank the Spotswood, Helmetta and Milltown communities, as well as the SHS students and DECA members, for their support."