SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Spotswood High School's award-winning DECA chapter is hosting a drive-by fundraiser for Autism Speaks on Sunday, October 11 at 10 a.m. Originally, the event organized by Spotswood High School DECA members Diana Rucinski, Sofia Vieira and Maya Wesen, was supposed to be a walk hosted by Autism Speaks.
Autism Speaks was founded in 2005 by two grandparents. It is the biggest autism advocacy organization located in the country and sponsors reach, community outreach programs and more. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Autism Speaks canceled the event. However, Rucinski, Vieira and Wesen did not want to let their community-wide autism awareness event end with just the proceeds from their t-shirt sale. Instead, the trio got creative.
"The original event was an Autism Awareness Walk led by Autism Speaks," Rucinski, Vieira and Wesen explained. "At this event, speakers would educate participants about autism as well as join as a community to support autism. We sold Autism Awareness shirts and raised $1,408, which was sent to Autism Speaks directly."
"It was important to reinvent the event because we want to educate and spread awareness to the community," they continued. "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."
Sunday's drive-thru will be a revamped version of what Autism Speaks speakers would have presented to the audience of walkers. Rucinski, Vieira and Wesen are asking participants to decorate their cars and wear blue to show support for autism. Blue is the color used on World Autism Awareness Day in April to help raise consciousness about the developmental disorder impacting one out of 54 children according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Throughout the course, there will be multiple facts to educate participants about autism," the teens added. "We hope everyone takes away something relating to autism spectrum disorder. There is an optional donation during the course, which would be directly donated to Autism Speaks.
Rucinski, Vieira and Wesen will be wearing face coverings as will their fellow DECA volunteers and parent chaperones. They are asking participants to do the same. People driving through can keep their windows down if they are comfortable and get out of their vehicles to make a donation. Otherwise, there will be a tarp and bucket available for participants preferring to toss donations. Change and bills are welcome and all the money collected on Sunday will be donated to Autism Speaks. Participants can also donate to Autism Speaks by going to the organization's website.
Spotswood High School is located at 105 Summerhill Road. Signs will be posted at the high school's front entrance on October 11 to guide drivers through the Autism Awareness course.
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.