Going on vacation this summer? Jake’s got a question for you …

Jake knows summer is coming and he knows that means vacation and traveling for many folks. And for some of you, it might mean a hotel stay. And if you are a Washington Redskins player, like Jake’s buddy Nick Sundberg, it means an extended hotel stay while you are at training camp!!

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You end up with a lot of toiletries after you attend training camp!!

Jake also knows that people often travel for work.  He knows that many of my PEATC colleagues travel to various locations across Virginia to train parents of children with Special Needs and/or children receiving Special Education services.

If your plans in the near future involve a hotel stay, for business or pleasure, Jake would like you to save your toiletry items for him.

Why does a 12-year-old with Autism & ADHD need toiletries?  Well, they are not for Jake, but for Comfort Cases!

Comfort Cases is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides children ages 0-18 who are in the foster care system with a bag filled with essential needs as well as comfort items.

So … back to toiletries!!!

If you are familiar with Jake, you may be aware that he is a fan of logos, branding, and graphics.  He also likes sorting, counting, and categorizing.  When given a big bag of toiletries, he loves nothing better than looking at what hotel chain they came from and then sorting into categories by type.  It is a task that appeals to his sense of order and structure, not to mention the visual elements.

Sooooooo … all this to say … Jake would love it if you’d save those toiletries that you were more than likely stuff into *that* drawer in your home and forget about … and give them to Jake as part of his collection project for Comfort Cases.

Not traveling but still want to help Jake’s project and Comfort Cases? Well, they are also looking for the following NEW items to supply to kids and youth entering foster care:

  • Small duffel bags/backpacks
  • Pajamas/Sleepwear – Sizes Newborn through Adult XXL
  • Small Blankets – Up to Throw Size (40″ x 60″)
  • Toothbrushes – Youth & Adult
  • Stuffed Animals
  • Coloring Books
  • Crayons
  • Journals
  • Pens & Pencils
  • Books

If you’d like to learn more about the genesis of Comfort Cases and founder Rob Scheer, please check out his story from his interview on the Today Show:

http://www.today.com/video/meet-the-man-whose-childhood-in-foster-care-inspired-nonprofit-for-kids-839453763557 and the Comfort Cases website: https://www.comfortcases.org/.

If you are interested in supporting Jake in his effort to show that kids (even kids with disAbilities) can help other kids, please leave a comment on this post or reach out to me via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram so we can coordinate pickup/delivery of donations.

We are hoping to arrange some drop off locations, so please stay tuned!

So, Happy Travelling, and remember the kids entering foster care who would take so much comfort in something so simple!

Thank you!

The Giving Season

It’s been a while since I updated this blog, and I will need to go back and document a few events from the summer months, but right now, I’m going to write about Jake’s continued commitment to #GivingBack.

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As soon as school ended in June, we began talking about what sort of things Jake could do as a community service / community giving project. He told me that he wanted to do it again this year.

Because of his purses and toiletry items last year, he’s gained a reputation as the “travel toiletry kid”; most of my colleagues at PEATC travel extensively throughout Virginia during the summer months conducting special education related training, and they saved their items for Jake. Our family traveled in the summer and Jake’s aide traveled as well, so we added more to Jake’s collection efforts. To top it off, Jake’s pal Nick Sundberg of the Washington Redskins had an extended stay at the Omni in Richmond during Training Camp and saved a shopping bag full of toiletry items for Jake! Jake is thankful for all these items, and these toiletries will be a part of the giving as a result of the Dreams For Kids DC (DFKDC) Holiday Celebration.

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Thank you, Nick Sundberg!

But, in talking with DFKDC‘s Executive Director, we came upon another idea of a project that would involve kids “giving back” to other kids!

This year, Jake is collecting fleece to make blankets for the children who are patients at Inova Children’s Hospital.

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When we talked about it, Jake liked the idea of making kids feel better. He could relate to the idea that when you are at the hospital you might be missing your home and all the things you are used to having around. So, making something that feels comfortable and cozy seemed like a great idea, and one that DFKDC participants and volunteers can help to make during the DFKDC Holiday Celebration.

The 2016 DFKDC Holiday Celebration isn’t just a party, it’s an opportunity!

During the DFKDC Holiday Celebration, DFKDC participants and their families will be transformed into community givers and volunteers! With the assistance of other DFKDC volunteers, the DFKDC participants will take part in activities such as making holiday cards, assembling gift bags, and wrapping presents. They will also enjoy lunch, entertainment, and I’d be willing to bet, a little dancing!!!

Just as he did last year, Jake wants to demonstrate that DFKDC participants are able and interested in community service and community giving, and, most importantly, that their disAbilities aren’t a barrier to the giving spirit!

Jake excited about helping DFKDC make sure that other kids will have a happy holiday as a result of the event, but he could use your help!

Between now and December 15, 2016, Jake will be collecting fleece (or the means to purchase fleece) to make blankets for pediatric patients at Inova Children’s Hospital.

The fleece blankets can be made for teens, kids, or toddlers; each blanket consists of 2 pieces of fleece, typically a print and a coordinating solid color:

Teen blanket: 2 X 2 yards of fabric
Kids blanket: 2 X 1.5 yards of fabric
Toddler blanket: 2 X 1 yard of fabric

Jake has already received a few contributions to his project, but he could use your assistance to provide the kids at Inova children’s Hospital with something cuddly and cozy to hold.

For more information about Dreams For Kids DC, the 2016 DFKDC Holiday Celebration, and how to get involved, go to http://www.eventbrite.com/o/dreams-for-kids-dc-4251397915 or http://dreamsforkidsdc.org/. You can also email/message me for more details on contributing fleece.

A magical night spent “Under The Sea”

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2016 DFKDC Prom: “Under the Sea”. What a fun night! It was great to see all the Dreams for Kids DC participants, friends, families, and volunteers enjoy themselves in what may typically be a tricky social situation.

Both Jake and Sofia enjoyed being on the dance floor thanks to Pelonkey‘s DJ Neekola and her great beats! I enjoyed seeing the smiles, especially on the faces of the ‪#‎DFKDC‬ participants.

I am appreciative beyond words can adequately express how thankful I am for the Dreams for Kids organization serving the DMV under the leadership of the amazing Glenda Fu and her “All Hands On Deck” board members. They allow me to witness things that I would have never imagined possible when Jake was diagnosed with Autism. 

I am equally grateful that DFKDC routinely includes siblings in their activities … I think this participation is a great way to grow the next generation of disability/special needs advocates … and just all around good people!

Thank you to all the sponsors: On The Edge CF, Michael & Son Services, Pelonkey, Washington DCJCC, and Rob & Paige Robertory! Thank you to Tom Prather / The Blue Wave Media + Strategy, Heather Mahoney /Haute Haus Agency, and Snapshot Moments Photobooth, LLC for photography/video! And thanks again to Niara Iman and Nick Sundberg for being great sports and the best prom dates my kids could ever imagine!!!!!!

Photos & news media:

 

Prom-posal-palooza – UPDATE!!!!

BREAKING NEWS!!!! UPDATE!!!! Sofia & her Dreams for Kids DC #prom date, Nick Sundberg of the Washington Redskins will be onFox 5 DC around 9:40 am (EST) TOMORROW, Thursday, March 24. They will be talking about#DFKDC and the upcoming 2016 DFKDC Prom: Under the Sea / DFKDC Pre-Prom Pep Rally. Tune in to find out more about this fantastic organization and all the great things they do for kids with #SpecialNeeds in the #DMV!

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Ah … Spring is in the air, and it’s time for Prom season!

And the Prom we are most excited about is the Dreams for Kids DC Prom: Under The Sea!

Following their recognition as “Participants of the Year at the DFKDC Holiday Celebration, both Jake and Sofia have had an increased dedication to raising awareness about Dreams for Kids DC programs!

Last month, DFKDC’s Executive Director, Glenda Fu, approached me with the idea for Jake and Sofie to “ask” local celebrity volunteers to the prom.

In Sofia’s case, she’s had a long-standing connection with Washington Redskins‘ Long Snapper, Nick Sundberg, so she shot a video invite him to the prom.

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Sofia & Nick Sundberg

In her video, Sofia asked the hard hitting questions: “Do you like dancing? Do you like food? Do you like water?”

Nick said “yes“!!

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And Sofia gives a big “Thank You” to Nick … and reminds him they will just be going as friends!

Jake is also going to prom with a long-time DFKDC volunteer and 2015 Miss DC Teen USA, Niara Iman.

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He also made his “ask” via video and she also said yes!

Get out your boogie shoes, Nick & Niara!!!!

See you on April 16 at the DFKDC Prom!!

Happy Birthday, Wegmans!

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Jake at the June 14, 2015 Wegmans Alexandria store opening

As an “Autism mom”, I’ve had to deal with my fair share of Jake’s “unusual interests”. Some of these interests, we’ve tried to discourage, such as Jake’s overwhelming desire to touch, sniff, and even put his mouth on other people’s feet … even complete strangers!

Thankfully, feet have taken a back seat to other more productive interests.  One such interest is of all things culinary!

Jake loves to make menus, to write out and illustrate recipes, to cook (chicken taquitos are his specialty), to bake (he can crack a mean egg), and, of course, to grocery shop.

One of Jake’s favorite grocery destinations is Wegmans! We’ve been going since he was a little guy when they opened their 1st location in Fairfax County, Virginia. I loved the store, of course, with it’s great variety of both “staples” as well as unique, specialty items. And being able to get a bite to eat AND do your shopping … well you didn’t have to twist my arm to get me to go.  Plus, as a mom, I always appreciated the “Helping Hands” out to the car, as well as the parking deck … these are the types of things that help to make grocery shopping with the kids manageable, especially in less than ideal weather.

But, back to Jake and HIS love for Wegmans.

It was September 2010 … Jake had just tuned 6 years old.  We were attending a Special Needs family movie night hosted by the Faith and Family Foundation. We knew that pizza and “movie snacks” were going to be provided, and when we arrived, we discovered that the food was being provided by the Leesburg Wegmans.

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Wegmans Leesburg provided the yummy pizza & snacks!

Jake saw the balloons as we arrived and immediately said “Wegmans”! Jake played, had some pizza and snacks, and was having a grand time. Shortly before they began the movie, Washington Redskins Pro Football Hall of Fame great Art Monk arrived to say a few words and take some pictures.  I was beyond thrilled.  Jake was “meh” about the whole thing (posing for a photo meant having to stop playing), and miss Sofia was happy … she raised her arms in a toddler’s universal sign for “pick me up”, and Mr. Monk did just that … class act and good sport all the way!

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So, following our brush with greatness, I spotted a group of the Leesburg Wegmans employees. I pointed them out to Jake … “Jake, do you want to take a picture with the Wegmans people?”, I asked. “YESSSS!!!” was the response, and so we took a few snaps. To Jake, the Wegmans folks were absolute rock stars!!

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So, he doesn’t look very excited, but he was pumped to meet “The Wegmans people”!

Following his photo op, one of the folks from Wegmans gave him a Wegmans paper hat.  He proceeded to wear that hat for 2 weeks straight until it was a rumpled mess.

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All aboard … next stop, Wegmans!

About a week after the movie night, we went out to visit the Leesburg Wegmans and to take printed copies of the photo of the staff members with Jake. They were so tickled by Jake’s enthusiasm for Wegmans that they presented him with a “Helping Hands” polo shirt, an apron, and a name badge!

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Jake in his Wegmans regalia

Over the years, I have been fortunate to find a few Wegmans ball caps for Jake at the thrift store, and to have been given one by a friend who works at the Fairfax location.

Jake’s “Wegmania” hit an all time high this summer when he had the opportunity to attend his very FIRST Wegmans store opening at their Alexandria location! We were there bright and early, ready for the doors to open at 7:00 in the morning!

All the excitement outside was no match for what happened a bit later … when Jake met Danny Wegman!!!

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Danny Wegman with future employee, Jake!

To top off the exciting day, we had lunch in Wegmans onsite full-service restaurant, The Pub.

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Opening day at The Pub at Wegmans Alexandria

As it turns 100, we want to wish Wegmans a very Happy Birthday!

“How wonderful life is while you’re in the world!” – Elton John/Bernie Taupin

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Over the Top!!!!!!!!!!

Ok … so, you may or may not remember my VERY FIRST blog post … but in it I stated that I was feeling overwhelmed.

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Sorting & counting contributions from dad’s U.S. Secret Service coworkers & the St. Luke’s Ordinariate Community 

Well, I’m feeling that way again.

But, it’s not stress-related.

I’m overwhelmed by the power of LOVE …

… αγαπη  (agapē)

… caritas

… charity

Thanks to the generous and loving hearts of friends, family, and perfect strangers, Jake has surpassed his goal of collecting 100 purses!

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If you dream it, you can do it!!!!!

On Tuesday, December 8, 2015, we read the following announcement from Dreams For Kids DC Executive Director, Glenda Fu:

“We have astounding great news! Jake has broke his goal of 100 purses for Dress for Success Washington, DC! We are at 180 purses and about 800 toiletries, meaning approximately 5 little presents going into each bag for underprivileged women in DC! Congrats Jake – you are our hero!”

Ummmmm … what?!?!?!?

“Without love, alms giving is no more important an activity than brushing your hair or washing your hands.” – Thomas Merton

Thank you all so much for your support!