Bubble-blowing event raises autism awareness

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  • Photo by Viktoria-Leigh Wagner Clifton E. Lawrence school students hold up a sign that reads 'Acceptance is the Cure.'

  • Photo by Viktoria-Leigh Wagner First-grader Zachary Brouard blows a bubble.

  • Photo by Viktoria-Leigh Wagner Kindergartner Caleb Norman is one of 430 students blowing bubbles in support of autism awareness.

A team of three Clifton E. Lawrence educators — Jennifer Bork, Shannon Milazzo and Michele Wilczynski — participated in the Northern New Jersey Walk Now for Autism Speaks at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford recently, along with 7,500 others to walk for autism awareness.

N.Y. Giants punter Steve Weatherford made an appearance at the event. Pat Battle from NBC News and 11-year-old singer Jodi DiPiazza, the latter diagnosed with autism at the age of two, lead the countdown to the walk. The event raise more than $363,106 in support of the Autism Speaks mission to fund research, increase awareness and family services and advocate for individuals with autism and their families.

The following day at the Clifton E. Lawrence School (31 Ryan Rd. in Sussex), 430 students blew bubbles for autism awareness.

Self-contained classroom special education teacher Jennifer Bork of Sandyston coordinated the event. A Lawrence School teacher since 2007, Bork — who currently teaches six autistic students — got the idea for the bubble blowing in 2008 from F.A.C.E.S. 4 Autism, a non-profit organization in Southern New Jersey.

“They state on their website that bubbles are symbols of joy, hope and laughter," Bork said. "When we blow bubbles for autism together, we create a new awareness of families facing autism. The site also says bubbles make people happy. Last year, more than 57,000 people joined the organization in blowing bubbles for autism. Now, we can add our school to that list of people.”

Sussex-Wantage Regional Director of Special Services Audrey Poggioli said Bork took the lead with some of the other teachers.

“I’ve been in special education almost 17 years and have worked extensively with students with autism in both professional and administrative capacities," she said. "I’m very excited the Lawrence school is able to participate in the Bubble-Blowing Event as a community.”

Throughout April, or Autism Awareness month, Lawrence School students learned about autism, tolerance, and understanding students with special needs. The Sussex-Wantage Regional School District sold 95 T-shirts to raise money for the team of teachers to donate to Autism Speaks at the Walk Now for Autism event May 18. The Clifton E. Lawrence School sold 54 t-shirts. Profits from selling the t-shirts totaled to $194.75.

Autism-related merchandise from Oriental Trading Company, homemade candies and ornaments were also purchased and sold to students, staff, and families to raise money to be donated to Autism Speaks.

Profits from selling Oriental Trading Co. merchandise, chocolate lollipops made mainly by Sussex Middle School teacher Stephanie Birnbaum and salt-dough puzzle ornaments made by Sussex Middle School students in Learning and Language Disorder classes totaled $263.61. The Sussex-Wantage Education Association also donated $276 accumulated from teacher donations on dress-down jean Fridays during the month of April.

In total, the Sussex-Wantage Regional School District donated $734.36 to Autism Speaks.

"The bubble-blowing event is wonderful," Principal Barbara Cimorelli. "It concludes our April Autism Awareness activities and allows us to celebrate how special and unique each child is.”

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