Jersey City, NJ

Annual fundraising gala in Jersey City hopes to shine the spotlight on autism

Asha Sridhar
I want people to know that autism is a spectrum, that it is not a single symptom. That all individuals on the spectrum — whether non-verbal or highly communicative — are deserving of respect, resources and a place in our community.
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CEO and Founder of The Whole Spectrum Autism Foundation, Sherry Singh (right) with her son Ravi (left) in Jersey City.(Photo/ The Whole Spectrum Autism Foundation)

JERSEY CITY, N.J. - When Sherry Singh’s son was young, awareness on autism was lacking and her son couldn’t always receive the care and diagnosis he needed. As CEO and Founder of The Whole Spectrum Autism Foundation, Singh is working to change that by raising funds as well as awareness to support those on the autism spectrum and their families.

Complete with food, music and dancing, the Foundation is organizing its sixth annual fundraising gala for autism on September 9 at The Ashford restaurant in downtown Jersey City.

Laying out the red carpet

“This is not just an opportunity to raise funds — which is so important to continuing our work — but also to raise awareness and acceptance by bringing our families together at an event that celebrates them and their lives, as opposed to isolating and hiding the more seriously impacted individuals on the spectrum. This event literally gives our families a red carpet to walk down and says ‘We Are Here!’,” said Singh in an email.

This is not just an opportunity to raise funds — which is so important to continuing our work — but also to raise awareness and acceptance by bringing our families together at an event that celebrates them and their lives, as opposed to isolating and hiding the more seriously impacted individuals on the spectrum. This event literally gives our families a red carpet to walk down and says ‘We Are Here!’

The funds raised, said Singh, will benefit the mission of the Foundation by providing support to individuals on the autism spectrum and their families through recreational programs, awareness campaigns and legislative action.

Early intervention is key

“When Ravi was young there was little known about autism and years were spent getting misdiagnosis from doctors. Early intervention has been shown to be life-changing for people on the spectrum and New Jersey has some of the best resources for identifying individuals on the spectrum early and getting them the support they need. I want people to know that autism is a spectrum, that it is not a single symptom. That all individuals on the spectrum — whether non-verbal or highly communicative — are deserving of respect, resources and a place in our community,” asserts Singh.

Jobs and vocational training

Citing research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes how fewer young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have the same opportunities as their peers without ASD. This includes factors such as employment or underemployment, enrollment in higher education and having a social circle.

For the fundraiser next week, the Foundation is partnering with Hudson Community Enterprises, who will be an exhibitor. “They are an amazing Jersey City-based organization that offers vocational training and job opportunities to people with disabilities, including those on the spectrum,” said Singh.

She said they are aligning with organizations such as Hudson Community Enterprises to drive awareness in the community on providing training and jobs to individuals on the spectrum.

“The Whole Spectrum [Autism Foundation] was begun to create a community for families of individuals with autism, to give them a place to gather, to be included and to be accepted. We have been growing and expanding our efforts to be more than just a recreational outlet, seeking support from local government and private benefactors to support programs for training of caregivers and first responders, educational and vocational opportunities and larger issues such as housing and long-term care,” she notes.

According to a press release from the Foundation, other than families having persons with autism, those expected to attend the fundraiser include Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Mrs New Jersey International 2021, Sarah Campbell, Miss Hudson County International, Krystle Danza, and Mrs Monmouth County International, Karlee Smart.

The ticketed event is open to all. If interested in purchasing tickets, you can visit their website for more details. They have a limited number of scholarships for families of individuals on the spectrum to attend at no cost. Those interested can write to office@thewholespectrum.org

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I am a Jersey City-based writer and editor interested in books, culture, lifestyle and stories that are off the beaten path.

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