BRIELLE — Hundreds of walkers and runners of all ages headed to Brielle Park Sunday to support the creation of a new educational program at the Brookdale Wall campus for individuals age 21 and older with autism.
The Monmouth Ocean Foundation For Children sponsored The Future of Blue 5K Run/2 Mile Race Walk April 18 to help raise funds to finance its new project, the Achieve Academy for Adults with Autism — a post-21 continuing education program offering such services as speech, behavioral, occupational or physical therapy, as well as job training and employment placement in local businesses and organizations.
“Our goal is to raise about $5 million dollars to open up our program at the Brookdale Community College site in Wall Township,” board member Tara Beams told attendees.
“This will be a full service education program for adults who have aged out of the K-12 system. We will continue to provide all the services they need to continue to be independent while also working on getting them employment opportunities so they can live more productive independent lives … so this is just the first step.
“These are the most vulnerable, most special members of all our families, our friends and we can all do so much to support them and make sure they are productive members of our community.”
According to its website, since 1992 the Monmouth Ocean Foundation for Children has been committed to supporting and enriching the educational programs for local children with special needs. Over the last 15 years, the foundation has focused exclusively on financially supporting programs that will enhance the lives of students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“I am so eternally grateful that there are so many people that are looking to stand with us and support change,” board member Jennifer Zona told The Coast Star in regards to Sunday’s attendance of nearly 600 participants.
“I like to say that everyone knows somebody with autism so I think there is awareness out there so now we have to get to a place where we accept them in their adult lives and we help them thrive in their adult lives. There are 5.4 million adults living with autism … and we’ve always known that there has been a significant need for support, for services and as a community we need to do our part.
“There is a place for everybody and with the training and support and services we can do that and be a more inclusive society and really move the needle and effect change. The time is now to change the paradigm for adults living with autism.”
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