The fourth annual Ryan Woods Autism Awareness Fundraiser and Fair was held past Saturday on the South Green. Donning vibrant orange shirts, volunteers served up snow cones, hot dogs, hamburgers and refreshments.
The Ryan Wood Autism Foundation offers a variety of activities geared to the specific needs and requests of members. RWAF offers outreach and support for families with children on the spectrum; recreational and educational activities such as: bowling; annual music festivals; annual gala in November that engages the City of Middletown and surrounding towns.
In October 2010, RWAF launched the first After-School program for Teens with Special Needs in the state of Connecticut. The program is called RWAF After 3. The program is facilitated effective June 22 in the Masonic Lodge, 33 Pleasant Street, Middletown.
The organization is now aligned with Middletown Public Schools to further RWAF's mission of educational advocacy and enhancing outreach programs for not only children with autism, but their families and non autistic children to help them better understand autism.
The Taiko Drum Ensemble from Wesleyan University took the stage in the show mobile to provide an entertaining musical interlude.Various talented artists sold wares to benefit the foundation. Two large bounce houses, one of which was a water slide kept children in attendance entertained thru-out the afternoon. The Middletown fire department was on staff to monitor the event and provide a watchful eye on the large inflatable water slide. Pictured in photos is 6-year-old Daniel Gwynn, a child with autism, of East Hartford cools off in the waterslide with his friends and his on looking mom nearby.
Mayor Giuliano (R), Councilwoman Debra Kleckowski (R), Councilman Phil Pessina (R), and the distinguished human rights advocate and City Human Rights committee member Roland Cockfield (first photo above right) were on hand to give inspirational messages of hope and praise to the volunteers. Deputy Mayor Joe Bibisi, and Republican council candidates Linda Salafia, Matt Fraulino, P&Z candidates, Fred Terrasi, myself, and BOE candidate Tami Kapacziewski were also on hand to meet and praise 10-year-old Ryan Woods who has autism, who was the inspiration for the event.
A touching moment was when common council candidate Ed Dypka (R) spoke to the crowd about his own adult son, who has cerebral palsy and learning disabilities, as being his inspiration, and reminded people how special every child is. Dypka's has been a longtime member of the Board of Directors for Middlesex Association for Retarded Citizens and life long advocate for persons who cannot necessarily speak for themselves, who have what in his words are what society has labeled "disabilities."
Dypka, who made no references to his own campaign through out his speech, reminded the crowd that the focus should always be on a child's abilities, and integrated education for children with special needs with children without those needs is key to bending the cycle of discrimination that differently abled adults face.
Mayor Giuliano praised event coordinator Brenda Wilson, grandmother of Ryan Woods and foundation founder, (first photo top right) for being a community leader and expanding her grassroots effort into such a wide spread and successful City wide event that has shaped the way the community sees autism & all children. Giuliano, who spoke of his young cousin who is on the autism spectrum as well, reiterated that "many hands make a perceived burden light" in regards to the tedious & daunting task that society undertaken as far as research about finding cures and coping mechanisms for autism.
Various local artists, crafters, and vendorshad table the Green selling their wares with various percentages of the proceeds going to RWAF. One of the local artist's who's work caught my eye was Middletown resident J. Burts (photo right). I found particularly engaging was his Michael Jackson tribute piece, which sold early in the day.Burts is a multi media artist who specializes in airbrush art, and has beencreating art for over a decade.
Middletown resident Lulu McArthur sold her handmade, brightly colored afghans and slippers. When I asked, I was shocked to find that McArthur has only been making crocheted items, which were exquisitely crafted for about six months and she is completely self-taught! McArthur spoke passionately about RWAF and said crocheting was a good excuse for her to void housework. (photo below)To find out more information about The Ryan Woods Autism Foundation visit:http://ryanwoodsautismfoundation.org.