ELIZABETH– Community Access Unlimited (CAU) members, staff, family and friends made strides toward allowing people with disabilities to lead more fulfilling lives and at-risk youth to plan for surer tomorrows at the 2009 Ira Geller Memorial Walk-A-Thon held Sept. 26 at Rahway River Park. Nearly 300 walkers and sponsors raised more than $20,000 to support Community Access Unlimited and its programs and services.
CAU also enjoyed the support of the boys soccer team from New Brunswick High School, who attended the event for the first time as part of their community service efforts under the Play It Smart program. Play It Smart is a national program designed to help student-athletes take responsibility for their futures through lessons learned on the playing field, in the classroom and in service to others.
The 17 members of the team helped CAU staff set up, serve lunch and clean up afterward, while also interacting with members and learning about the talents and passions of people with disabilities, which include advocacy.
“They were really into it,” Rafael Castillo, academic counselor of Play It Smart at New Brunswick High School, said of the students. “We have a lot of current athletes who have never done community service. They start to understand the importance of it. We use sports to teach them life experiences off the field.”
Qualid Majdoubi, a senior and forward striker on the team, added, “It’s really a great experience. You meet new people. I made a lot of new friends here. (Through Play It Smart) I gain leadership and learn how to make friends with other people. It’s opened my eyes to what you can do in the community.”
Joyce Cargle has known how much she and others with disabilities can do in the community for years. Cargle has been a member of Community Access Unlimited for 17 years and lives on her own within the Supervised Apartment Program. Each day she takes a bus to work at CAU, where she is a member of the cleaning crew that visits of the agency’s various locations.
“I get to be around all my friends,” she said. “I have a lot of staff I consider my friends and family. But mostly I like getting paid.”
Cargle also likes helping to support CAU and her fellow members. She walks each year in the Walk-A-Thon and has raised more than $400 in the past two years.
“This event is a great opportunity to get everyone together in a relaxing atmosphere, away from the work we do every day,” said Mercedes Witowsky, associate executive director at CAU.
“But it also reinforces the importance of that work. The walk not only raises money to help us provide the services and programs that allow our members to enjoy fulfilling lives and promising futures but also allows them to help raise that money and advocate for themselves. Each year at this event we collectively take strides so much farther than the 1.6 miles we actually walk.”
Community Access Unlimited (CAU) members Marcella Truppa (second from left), Mark Bloom and Joyce Cargle (second from right) cross the finish line at CAU’s 11th Annual Ira Geller Memorial Walk-A-Thon accompanied by three New Brunswick High School soccer players.
The New Brunswick High School boys soccer team with Katie Baird, coordinator of marketing and fundraising at Community Access Unlimited (CAU), at CAU’s 11th Annual Ira Geller Memorial Walk-A-Thon. The soccer team attended the event as part of their community service efforts under the Play It Smart program.
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