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Local Autism Support Group FUN Kicks Off 2019-20 Season



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Linda Jones, this year’s dedicated group of Newtown High School National Honors Society volunteers, supporters, and the local young people the local nonprofit serves all gathered in the Newtown Community Center one recent afternoon marking the kickoff to Families United in Newtown’s (FUN) 2019-20 season of activities.

The grassroots organization has been tapping Honors Society students and community volunteers since 2010, primarily offering supervised social and recreational activities for young people with developmental disabilities as well as those on the autism spectrum — while concurrently helping raise awareness about autism and funds to support autism research.

The opening day event, which featured music, games, food, and refreshments, also welcomed Newtown dance teacher Matt Ames, who put young attendees and several of the high school volunteers through their paces, helping them learn choreographed dance moves to several popular and traditional party dance songs.

About three dozen families attended and registered for the current season of events.

The next FUN activity happens October 19 at the United Methodist Church Fall Craft Fair, happening at the Reed Intermediate School from 10 am to 4 pm.

Among vendors and craftspeople will be the annual FUN “Fun-draiser” featuring items from T.J. Design Jewelry happening on the Reed cafetorium stage. The jewelry enterprize, created around one of the favorite activities enjoyed by the late Tyler Jones, will offer custom-made crafts and jewelry for men, women, teens, children, and even pets, according to Ms Jones.

The FUN booth will also offer holiday gifts, chair massages from Agatha Lassauzeau, reiki with Jojo Keane, live music, and other special activities all helping to underwrite the expenses of monthly FUN gatherings throughout each school year that are almost exclusively offered free of charge.

During the event, Ms Jones will be presenting a “Gene Talk,” to help educate visitors about vital genetic research happening and its ties to autism research being conducted by primary FUN beneficiary Dr Margaret Bauman.

Dr 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.

Dr 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). Dr Bauman is also a founding director of the Lurie Center, formally called LADDERS (Learning and Developmental Disabilities Evaluation and Rehabilitation Services).

If you missed the craft fair, any parent or caregiver to a child with special needs is invited to enjoy the upcoming FUN Halloween Party on October 26.

It is being held in the Newtown High School’s new cafetorium from 4 to 6 pm. Attendees, who are encouraged to come in costume, will decorate pumpkins, enjoy pizza, participate in a runway costume parade, and can bring their collection bags for a small Trunk or Treat activity in the adjacent NHS rear parking area before the event concludes.

Next up is a November 17 party featuring the hugely popular Yoga for All activity, along with DJ dancing, food, and refreshments. It is happening at the Newtown Community Center from 3 to 5 pm.

The first half of this season’s FUN gatherings closes out December 8 at the Holiday FUN Party, happening in the cafetorium at Newtown High School from 3 to 5 pm. Holiday gifts and decorations will be on tap, along with a planned visit by a certain jolly old elf.

Started in 2010, Families United in Newtown was began as a recreation program in memory of Tyler Jones to help bring the community of special needs families together in a safe and welcoming place. At each FUN meeting, families are paired with a National Honors Society student from Newtown High School who will spend time with the kids, giving the parents a much-needed break.

Parents to Lindsey, Austin, and Tyler, Linda and Duane Jones took the tragedy of Tyler’s untimely passing in 2009 and turned it into a positive living memorial for their beloved son.

Linda, a local registered dietitian and advocate for the autism community, saw a need for a community-based recreation program for families with special-needs children. She started fundraising in 2008 and hosted the first FUN meeting in 2010.

Since then the group has expanded and serves many families from around Newtown and the region. Over the past few years, FUN has increased the number of monthly events throughout the year and even hosts an annual Benefit Concert.

Any and all are welcome at FUN meetings.

To help determine how much food and refreshments to stock, anyone planning to attend any FUN activity is asked to notify Ms Jones vis e-mail at lindajones9763@sbcglobal.net.

Activities may be subject to date and location changes due to weather or other circumstances, so participants and interested families are invited to keep up with FUN happenings at the group’s website familiesunitedinnewtown.org — or see up-to-the-minute event information on their Facebook page.

The organization also gratefully accepts tax-deductible donations through the website.

Newtown resident and dance leader Matt Ames runs a group of Families United in Newtown (FUN) kickoff meeting attendees through the “YMCA” during the September 15 gathering at the Newtown Community Center. Attendees also got a chance to socialize and enjoy some pizza, along with parents, caregivers, and NHS National Honors Society volunteers who assist at each of the monthly FUN activities. —photos courtesy Linda Jones
Info included with DANCING YMCA cutline
FUN leaders and Newtown High School National Honors Society helpers Ava Homes, left, and Milan Chand assisted at the September seasonal kickoff gathering at the Newtown Community Center. They were joined by fellow student mentors, from left, Anne Marie Carlson, Tucker Depuy, Moira Mckinley, and Payton Bradley.
IDs in ‘FUN leaders’ cutline
Families United in Newtown (FUN) guest Collin Viglietta explores the possibilities in a box of Legos with NHS Junior and FUN mentor Anne Marie Carlson during the 2019-20 season kickoff party, September 15, at the Newtown Community Center.
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