Potential Announces First ACE Awards to Celebrate Autism’s Unsung Heroes
To nominate: tinyurl.com/potentialace2019
By Debra Forman
Loving mom Paddy Burrows becomes highly emotional when her mind wanders back in time to when her daughter, Rylee, was five months old and several doctors predicted that the young girl would never run…or even walk.
This grateful mom holds back her tears when she thinks about the many therapists — “the unsung heroes” — who helped her family negotiate her daughter’s medical issues, including low muscle tone that restricted her from moving most of the left side of her body, in addition to her autism diagnosis.
These therapists worked with Rylee, now age four, and taught her parents a myriad of techniques in their Sellersville, Pa. home, on how to move and stretch their daughter’s muscles, enough to prove the doctors wrong. These dedicated professionals also worked with the young girl on speech and other therapy modes.
This is why Burrows, and her husband, Scott, want to spread the word about Potential’s First Autism Caring Excellence Awards, (ACE Awards), to recognize and honor the inspiring and life-changing workers in the field of autism treatment.
“It can be so difficult to navigate all of this when it’s your child, but these therapists gave us tips and strategies and truly helped our daughter every step of the way,”
says Burrows. “Without that daily interaction, she could just be sitting in a room and not moving, walking or running. Now she walks, runs, jumps, and plays.”
The nonprofit Potential Inc., of Newtown, the creator and sponsor of the ACE Awards, is encouraging parents, caregivers and members of the community to nominate educators, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, behaviorists, aides, and others whom they consider exceptional in the way they treat, care for, and help people with autism reach their milestones.
Nominations are now open to those who live or work in Bucks, Montgomery, Delco and Philadelphia Counties in PA and Mercer, Burlington and Hunterdon in NJ. (Within 25 miles of the 18940 Newtown zip code).
The winner of the ACE Awards will be announced at a Gala Fundraiser, HoeDown, ThrowDown for Autism Treatment, on Saturday, March 23, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., at the New Hope Winery, 6123 Lower York Road, in New Hope, Pa. (to purchase tickets or sponsor https://tinyurl.com/2019hoedown)
This fun-filled Western-themed fundraising event includes live music, tons of prizes, cocktails, dinner, an auction, line dancing instruction, dancing, and a golden opportunity to celebrate the community’s many “unsung heroes,” during the ACE Awards presentation.
“We felt that we wanted to recognize, celebrate and honor those people in the trenches, who are treating children and adults with autism,” explains Gadi Naaman, Director of Development for Potential and The Springtime School, a licensed private school that provides clinical and therapy services, located on Pheasant Run, in Newtown, and in the homes of its clients.
To Quinby, the new ACE Awards are super exciting for Potential and the greater community. “We are launching this to celebrate those people who do exemplary work,” she says, “and show others who are thinking about going into this field just how personally rewarding this is.”
She knows that there is a shortage of people to work with children and adults with autism. “The more we can provide positive reinforcement to the highly-qualified people in this field, and hope they stay with it, the greater the benefit to all of our families and the community.”
The Gala will shine a light on the need for more qualified caregivers since there are 120 children on Potential’s list, some who have been there for as long as two years. Each person hired will undergo training at the “ABA Bootcamp” an intensive four-week course in ABA therapy and autism treatment.
The plan is to build a workforce of competent and qualified therapists. “We want to get the funding to end the wait,” says Quinby, “and provide the services that meet our vision, our mission and our clients’ needs. This in turn, will end the waitlist for services.”
Heather DiPrato, of Lower Makefield, is the loving mother of a 12-year-old son, Jimmy, who is non-verbal and was diagnosed with autism in 2007.
For more than 10 years she and her husband Jim have worked with dozens of “phenomenal professionals,” who have dedicated their lives to helping local families. “This new award gives parents and caregivers the opportunity to shine a light on the amazing people who are really the ‘unsung heroes’ of the autism community.”
Potential volunteer Hillary Sawyer of Warminster, has worked for almost four years with children who were on the autism spectrum and also had other extreme behaviors.
“It was a daunting job because it was so easy to become worn down as a caregiver,” Sawyer says. “The best thing we can do is honor and recognize those people who dedicate themselves to this important work every day and continue on this journey to change lives one child at a time.”
Potential, a non-profit organization, was founded in 2006 by Kristine Quinby and helps children and adults with autism reach their full educational, social and emotional potential.
The deadline to submit nominations is midnight on Saturday, February 2. To submit a nomination please go to tinyurl.com/potentialace2019