Present

The 2nd Annual Benefit for Autism

Education, Research & Advocacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

BERGEN COUNTY BRIEFS

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

TENAFLY - Jonathan Singer and his 7-year-old daughter, Rebecca, will embark on a 24-hour drive Friday to raise funds for autism.

Starting at 10 a.m. the pair, who live in Tenafly, will visit 20 Borders Books & Music and Whole Foods Market sites in New Jersey and New York in an effort to raise $50,000.

This is the second road trip for Singer and Rebecca, who has a rare chromosomal abnormality and autistic tendencies. In 2002, they drove 3,500 miles from New York to California. "The Drive for Rebecca" raised funds to help establish REED Academy, a school for autistic children. The trips are also designed to increase awareness of autism and to promote advanced medical and educational research.

Borders will donate 15 percent of all purchases made at its stores in New York City and New Jersey on Friday and Saturday by customers who present a special coupon. Whole Foods Market will also accept donations at its registers through April 17.

For information or to get a coupon, visit the Singers' Web site at www.driveforrebecca.org.

- Monsy Alvarado

 

 

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Challenge of autism takes more than a village

 

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

 

BY MICHELE HOWE

 

Star-Ledger Staff

 

In August 2002, Jon Singer and his 7-year-old daughter, Rebecca, went on a nine-day, 3,500-mile, cross-country RV adventure.

 

It was far from a vacation, however. The Tenafly father-daughter team were hard at work raising money for autism research, with the goal of establishing a school for autistic children.

 

"Rebecca has a rare genetic disorder, with autistic tendencies," said Singer, adding that he and his wife, Michey, decided to take matters into their own hands.

 

"We become very frustrated with the limited availability of any public school options for children with autism," said Michey. "Our town was not ready to start a program in district."

 

So the Singers, both 39, got an idea.

 

"After looking into the disease and talking with doctors, my wife and I decided to raise money for research and to establish a school that would benefit our daughter and others like her," said Jon.

 

The "Drive for Rebecca," took the Singers from New York to California in an ongoing effort to raise $10 million through individual pledges and corporate donations.

 

"Several of us went on the fund-raising drive together," said Jon. "Rebecca, my wife and I, our son, Sam, my cousin, Evan Cohen, and a baby-sitter to help look after the kids. Once we got to Chicago, however, my wife decided it was better that she and Sam fly to L.A. and meet us there. He was only 2 at the time, and we thought the drive across country would be too much for him.

 

"People pledged what they wanted," he continued. "Some individuals pledged one cent per mile, others 10 cents, and others more depending on what they wanted to give. The same was true for the corporate donations we received."

 

So far, they have amassed nearly $100,000 -- about 70 percent of which was raised in 2002 and 2003," according to Jon.

 

"As a parent facing the challenges of raising a child with autism, research plays an important role in hopefully finding a cure or at least making the treatments so well known that they become available to everyone that needs them," said Michey. "Approximately $65,000 was been raised by friends and family for the school and approximately $30,000 for research, education and advocacy."

 

After speaking with people from the Alpine Learning Group, the couple discovered there were five other families in New Jersey who had similar ideas for their children.

 

"We wanted to start a school, and they did, also, so we decided to work together, and the REED Academy is the result. The school focuses on teaching students through a method of "applied behavioral analysis," Jon said.

 

REED Academy (Resources for Effective Educational Development) opened Sept. 3 in Washington Township, Bergen County. It is designed to serve the needs of students, ages 3 to 21.

 

Earlier this month, in an effort to raise more money, the Singers turned to Borders Books and Music stores and Whole Foods supermarkets throughout New Jersey and in New York City in a "20-Store 24-Hour Tour for Autism."

 

"The stores had agreed to hold different fund-raisers for us," said Jon. And Maserati North America gave them a red Maserati coupe to ride in for the day.

 

"It was wonderful," said Jon. "We raised money, gave out fliers and spread the word about autism as much as possible.

 

Last week, the Singers were honored by Gov. James E. McGreevey for their efforts on behalf of children with autism and related disorders.

 

"It was quite an honor to meet the governor. We knew that funding for autism was an important issue for him because he came to Tenafly last summer and signed a bill to fund autism research," Jon said.

 

(The bill, PL2003, c.144, established the "Autism Medical Research and Treatment Fund." The law went into effect on Feb. 2.)

 

Autism is a lifelong disability that affects communication, social and life-skills development. The cause is not known, and there is no cure. It is sometimes characterized by repetitive movements and children who seen emotionally distant from their families. At least one in every 500 Americans is affected by some form of autism, according to the National Institutes of Health.

 

Although Rebecca does not speak and often bangs on things and learns through constant repetitive exercises, she has made significant strides, according to her parents.

 

"Rebecca has started to learn the stepping stones to communicating by beginning to learn matching and imitating skills, how to ride a scooter, jump on a trampoline and roller skate. We can now, within reason, eat in a restaurant," Michey said.

 

"She is also learning to stop and wait and to put her clothes away instead of just standing and putting her hands in her mouth," Jon added.

 

Although the Singers admit they do not live what is considered a typical family life -- because their life is inundated by Rebecca, her needs, her schedule, her limitations -- they also try to give Sam a lot of special attention, said Michey.

 

April is Autism Awareness Month. Upcoming events for the Drive for Rebecca and organizations supported by it include:

 

Opera for Autism: The State Repertory Opera of New Jersey will perform Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" at Bergen Academies in Hackensack at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Paul DeSavino, a talented pianist with autism, will perform a brief pre-opera recital. Tickets, at $50, $40 senior and students, can be obtained by calling (973) 763-7969.

 

Night Under the Stars II: A cocktail party at Loft 11 in New York on May 6 at 6:30 p.m. Visit www.ReedAcademy.org.

 

 

Copyright 2004 The Star-Ledger

 

 

 

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The Drive for Rebecca, Inc.

 2 Valley Place PO Box 225

Tenafly, NJ 07670