ELIZABETH– Community Access Unlimited (CAU) members, staff, family and friends took great strides toward allowing people with disabilities to lead more fulfilling lives and at-risk youth to plan for surer tomorrows at the 2010 Ira Geller Memorial Walk-A-Thon held Sept. 25 at Rahway River Park. More than 325 walkers and sponsors raised more than $30,000 to support Community Access Unlimited and its programs and services.
CAU also enjoyed the support of the members of the boys soccer, basketball and baseball teams from New Brunswick High School, who attended the event 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.
About 16 members of the team helped CAU staff hand out goody bags and t-shirts and serve lunch and led warm-up exercises prior to the start of the walk. This was the second year the New Brunswick High students attended the walk.
The trip to the event is a valuable learning experience for the students, according to Rafael Castillo, academic counselor of Play It Smart at New Brunswick High School.
“Some of them hadn’t come in contact with people with disabilities,” he said. “They had a great time and want to do it again. They mentioned the Special Olympics.
“We have a goal to raise awareness. We want them to see the needs within the community. A lot of them come from economically challenged backgrounds. They see the needs but they don’t know what to do about it.”
By participating in the CAU Walk-A-Thon the students see people with disabilities who know what to do about their life needs taking strides to overcome their challenges. Money raised through the walk helps CAU members take concrete steps toward improving their lives and strengthening the outlook for their futures.
Mary Kurnos and her husband, Ed, exemplify the effective support CAU programs provide to members with disabilities, including money management and vocational training and employment opportunities. For 17 years Kurnos has been performing custodial work at CAU and each night returns to her home that she and Ed were able to purchase through their earnings and money management skills they acquired at the agency.
“I’m proud that I can do my job,” Kurnos said. “I put my money in my checking account (and) my husband also puts money into the account. We put money aside for food and the rest goes for bills. I never thought I would own a condo (but) I was ready for it.”
Patrick Perry has found stability and guidance through CAU programs and support that has allowed him to map out the strides he plans to take toward his future. Perry has been a youth member of CAU for just two years but already lives in his own apartment, having moved through the agency’s semi-independent and then supported housing programs.
An aspiring chef, Perry has started his culinary career at Union County College, plans to attend the Hudson County College culinary arts program and aspires to enter the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. He also learned at CAU that a balanced lifestyle involves giving back and being involved, so he is a member of CAU’s Youth Advisory Board and Member Action Committee.
“I want to change the way the DYFS system works, so that the next person coming up can get more than I got,” he said.
“This event is so remarkable because you can watch people with disabilities and young people who have struggled through difficult early years literally take strides toward better lives and futures,” said Sid Blanchard, executive director at CAU. “We only provide the programs and services. They are the ones who make the commitment and put in the effort to improve their lives.”
The Walk-A-Thon also was supported by more than two dozen businesses.
“The walk offers a wonderful opportunity for our community partners to provide support that is essential to our fulfilling of mission of supporting people with special needs,” Blanchard said. “The support we receive from the business community helps us turn steps into leaps of progress every year.”
Members and staff of Community Access Unlimited prepare to participate in the 2010 Ira Geller Memorial Walk-A-Thon that raised more than $30,000 to support the agency and its programs and services.
Members of the boys soccer, basketball and baseball teams from New Brunswick High School again this year supported the Community Access Unlimited Walk-A-Thon as part of their community service efforts under the Play It Smart program, 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.
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