For the third consecutive year, on Tuesday, April 2, Danbury joined the Autism Awareness Movement as families of loved ones in the spectrum, community agencies, activists, dignitaries, an international guest of honor, the City of Danbury, Danbury Public Library, and local businesses Spin Doctor Entertainment and Autism Behavioral Health came together to light up the Danbury Public Library blue for Autism and host awareness-focused events for all ages throughout the day.
The afternoon began with an autism awareness story hour with Danbury Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour featuring the children’s book "I Will Light It Up Blue" by Kerry Magro, an award winning national speaker and best-selling author who is on the Autism Spectrum, at the Library’s Children’s Department.
Later, a screening of the documentary "Deej," a film about a non-speaking young man who dreams of autistic civil rights, was held in partnership with WeCAHR and sponsored by Autism Behavioral Health (ABH) . The screening had standing room only and was followed by a panel discussion featuring moderator Christina Calabro (Executive Director, WeCAHR) and community Panelists Teresa Finaldi (Board Certified Counselor and facilitates a CTFSN support group for parents of special needs children), Elizabeth Gallo (Kitchen Manager at The Prospector Theater in Ridgefield, CT) and Graham Lewson (a second semester sophomore at Western Connecticut State University studying communication studies), and Jennifer Collins (a Partner with Cramer and Anderson’s Danbury Office). The Prospector Ridgefield donated gourmet popcorn and Easter seals -The Greenery Cafe provided additional small bites and refreshments.
The Light It Up Blue Ceremony was the final event of the day with over 100 attendees who took part in a sensory friendly ceremony that featured remarks by Alex Fischetti, Author and ASD Advocate on his life in the spectrum; Jessie Wong M.A., BCBA, LBA Clinical Director of Autism Behavioral Health (ABH) who spoke on early diagnosis and intervention.
Mayor Mark Boughton honored Miozotis Galarza, Founder and Director of Padres Unidos of Greater Danbury (PUGD) and an ASD mom with a municipal proclamation. She also received a congressional recognition sent by Congresswoman Jahana Hayes presented to Galarza by State Senator Julie Kushner alongside State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan.
Guest of Honor Fernanda Pontes, a Brazilian jornalist, TV Host, Philanthropist and Founder of the “ If You” Foundation, who came to the event to learn more about a ccommunity project fro special needs children in Danbury, shared a motivational message: “When we work together, it leads to stronger and much more effective results - we are never alone when we are united by the same cause.”
That community project is "GAFFA" (Support Group for Families with Children with Autism and Other Special Needs), a musical assemble of children with special needs and their typical siblings, graced the ceremony with musical performances, followed by the “light it up” moment when the library was lit up blue in honor of world autism awareness day by Spin Doctor Entertainment.
“Our 3rd annual Light It up Blue ceremony was an example of inclusion, love and acceptance. Nothing makes me happier to know that many of those who were in attendance were children and adults in the spectrum and special needs, their loved ones and support teams – they are the reason we celebrate world autism awareness day, they are the reason why we will continue to fight for inclusion and support in our community,” said Emanuela Palmares, event organizer, autism mom, and member of the Danbury Board of Education.
The event is traditionally held at City Hall, but was hosted at the Danbury Public Library with the intention to highlight a community campaign to raise funds for the Friends of the Danbury Library Inc, to furnish a new sensory room that will be created within the library's children's department on the second floor, with certain objects and activities designed to stimulate children with special needs. The room will be the first of its kind in a library in Connecticut.
Donations can be made via: https://www.gofundme.com/help-us-furnish-danbur-library039-s-sensory-room