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FUN To Light Newtown Blue Throughout ‘World Autism Month’



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Whether it is awareness or acceptance, Newtown will be embracing differences and lighting up blue for autism awareness throughout April.

According to Linda Jones, co-founder of Families United in Newtown (FUN), April represents a 30-day period where she, her board, supporters, and volunteers, along with dozens of Newtown High School National Honors Society students, go all out to help friends and neighbors gain a better understanding of autism and those living with it.

FUN is a locally based nonprofit supporting families and children with special needs in partnership with select National Honors Society students and key local volunteers, families, and businesses.

As in years past, a growing number of local landmarks, like Edmond Town Hall, and homes will be “lighting it up blue,” just as prominent sites around the world, like the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, the White House, Niagara Falls, and Australia’s Sydney Opera House, will be. FUN and its volunteers are also hosting activities each week of April starting with an Autism Month themed meeting April 3, and culminating in a movie matinee party at Edmond Town Hall on April 25.

Even leading up to April 2 — World Autism Day — NHS volunteers are making announcements every morning urging the entire community to “Wear Blue On 4/2” — and to share the message on social networks. Then every Tuesday and Friday morning throughout April, those volunteers will continue with morning announcements containing brief but important facts about autism to promote acceptance and breaking down stigmas about the condition.

Sandy Hook’s New Insights Boutique, Queen Street Gifts, and Butcher’s Best market will also have pop-up tables during April, with FUN-branded “Light It Up Blue” merchandise and blue light bulbs (while supplies last).

FUN is kicking off the month by welcoming all to its meeting on April 3, from 4:30 to 6 pm, at Newtown Congregational Church, 14 West Street. Weather permitting, the event — with refreshments and DJ dancing — will be held outdoors, and attendees will be given blue flashlights to participate in a twilight egg hunt.

Among all kinds of treats that will be scattered about the party zone, the super blue Autism Month egg holds $25 Visa gift card within, generously provided by Dr Brandon Chorney’s Life and Wellness Center of New Fairfield. To ensure there are adequate supplies for the kids, attendees are asked to register by texting Jones at 203-512-6284 with the name of any attendees who will be coming.

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal will mark the second week of Autism Month along with family members sharing the book My Brother Charlie by best selling author Holly Robinson Peete on Facebook Live, April 11 (time TBA). Recommended and provided by the C.H. Booth Library, My Brother Charlie is described as “a heartwarming story about a boy who happens to be autistic, based on Holly’s son, who has autism.”

Meet FUN Kids

During the third full week of April, visit familiesunitedinnewtown.org or the nonprofit’s Facebook pagee to see video clips introducing the community to the multiple talents and life skills of kids who have been part of FUN over the last 11 years.

Finally, on April 25, up to 156 attendees will be admitted to a fundraising screening of the Jon Favreau take on Disney’s The Lion King. For an admission donation of $5, attendees will qualify to win one of numerous donated door prizes, and additional FUN and Light It Up Blue merchandise, along with baked goods and water will be available in the lobby.

Jones said 100 percent of proceeds from the pop-up tables at local merchants and the movie screening will be added to running donations FUN and its student volunteers have been making to Dr Margaret Bauman. Bauman is a distinguished pediatric neurologist and research investigator who has been a pioneer in the study and treatment of autism for more than 25 years, according to her bio.

One of the world’s foremost physicians in this field, she is highly respected for the outstanding clinical care she provides, as well as for her research and teachings in the domain of developmental disorders. Bauman’s dedicated career is best exemplified in her establishment and development of The Autism Research Foundation (TARF), The Autism Research Consortium (TARC), The Lurie Center for Autism, and The Autism Treatment Network (ATN).

She is also a founding director of the Lurie Center, formally called LADDERS (Learning and Developmental Disabilities Evaluation and Rehabilitation Services). A donation check presentation is planned for a future FUN event.

Awareness And Acceptance

Depending on the national or global cause representing members of the autism community, April is recognized as World Autism Month, or Autism Acceptance Month. The Autism Society (autism-society.org) has been celebrating April as Autism Acceptance Month (AAM) since 1972. This year, the Maryland nonprofit reminds supporters that the prevalence of autism in the United States has risen from 1 in 125 children in 2010 to 1 in 59 in 2020.

Its 2021 #CelebrateDifferences campaign focuses on providing information and resources for communities to be more aware of autism, promote acceptance, and be more inclusive in everyday life. Its descriptor is becoming more popular globally, and on March 4, the Autism Society of America, along with leading disability organizations across the country, announced it is formally shifting references of “Autism Awareness Month” to “Autism Acceptance Month.”

The shift in the use of terminology aims to foster acceptance to ignite change through improved support and opportunities in education, employment, accessible housing, affordable health care, and comprehensive long-term services.

Another support organization, Autism Speaks, pioneered the April 2 practice of igniting blue lights in honor of World Autism Awareness Day, and FUN joins this cause in encouraging everyone to light their home or business blue, if not just for April 2, for the entire month. That nonprofit encourages everyone to visit autismspeaks.org/light-it-blue, and add the #LightItUpWithKindness frame to your Facebook or Twitter profile.

Founded by Jones and her husband, Duane, FUN offers supervised social and recreational activities for young people with developmental disabilities as well as those on the autism spectrum while helping to raise awareness about autism and funds to support autism research. The Joneses — parents to Lindsey, Austin, and Tyler — turned the tragedy of Tyler’s untimely passing in 2009 into a positive living memorial for their son to help bring special needs families together in a safe and welcoming place.

At each FUN meeting, families are paired with an NHS National Honor Society student who spends time with the kids, giving the parents a much-needed break. Any and all are welcome at FUN meetings. The organization also gratefully accepts tax-deductible donations to help underwrite the expense of activities, which are all offered free to participants.

To volunteer, donate, or for more information, visit the FUN website or the Families United in Newtown Facebook page. Anyone with questions about April activities or the organization can call or text Jones at 203-512-6284.

Members of the Rosenthal family — from left, Ben, Emi, Meri, and First Selectman Dan — joined Families United In Newtown (FUN) co-founder Linda Jones, March 20, ahead of the local autism support nonprofit’s celebrating of World Autism Month and Autism Awareness Day on April 2. With Dan displaying the autism puzzle piece, Meri shows off a huge blue egg that will contain the grand prize for a twilight egg hunt being held for FUN families April 3 at Newtown Congregational Church. —Bee Photo, Voket
Ashurst Academy of Irish Dance founder Craig Ashurst, center, watches members of his Newtown-based company during a demonstration for Families United In Newtown (FUN) at Dickinson Park, March 20. —Bee Photo, Voket
FUN Co-Founder Linda Jones, left, and Karen Simmons, mother of a child in FUN, were both decked out in St Patrick’s Day attire while catching up with one another during FUN’s event on March 20. —Bee Photo, Silber
FUN’s March meeting on Saturday kicked off with music and dancing, which resulted in masked individuals gathering under the Dickinson Park pavilion to dance and socialize with one another. —Bee Photo, Silber
FUN volunteers, standing from left, Emma Walsh, Madison Singlak, and Kendyl Morgenstern joined John Boccuzzi, seated left, and Sawyer Findley as they welcomed friends to FUN’s gathering at Dickinson Memorial Park on March 20. —Bee Photo, Silber
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