David Bronson’s voice cracked and the paper shook in his hand. Then, he cleared his throat as he choked back his tears.
“This is not going to be easy for me,” said Bronson, a father of a student at REED Academy, as he faced the crowd of nearly 300 supporters at the REED Foundation For Autism’s annual fall fundraiser on November 16 at Greenbrook Country Club. “I don’t do this very often, but there is really nothing more important than tonight.”
Bronson told the story of his daughter’s diagnosis with autism and how it changed the trajectory of his family’s life forever. He shared his search for the “best program” and his decision to leave his home in Los Angeles for “world-class” services and resources through applied behavior analysis in New Jersey.
“We were willing to do anything,” said Bronson. “There are only a few schools in the country like REED and if you get into one it is like winning the lottery. Well folks, as I stand here before you, we won the lottery by getting into REED Academy.”
Bronson said his daughter had come to REED with little to no language skills, was unable to do “basic tasks” like brush her teeth, dress herself or ride a bike. But after only a few years at the school, he is full of hope as she starts to communicate verbally and through her iPad, brush her own teeth, dress herself in the morning and ride a bike along with countless other outdoor activities.
“I call her my hero,” said Bronson fighting back tears. “She works harder to overcome her difficulties than anyone I have ever known and she does it with a smile.”
REED Foundation for Autism CEO/Executive Director Jill Nadison embraced Bronson as he concluded his moving story and the room erupted in applause followed by a standing ovation and tears.
“David, you are an inspiration to us all,” gushed Nadison. “Thank you for everything you do for this special community.”
Nadison followed Bronson with a powerful speech lamenting the high-incidence rates of autism and how the numbers keep exponentially rising as funding and services decrease — especially in the adult population.
“When I saw the CDC ‘s latest stats in NJ, I honestly felt like crying, 1 in 41 in NJ and 1 in 68 across the country,” she said. “It is truly staggering! These high incident rates come at a time in history when local, state and federal governments are struggling to cover high demand for services and the needs just keep growing.”
Nadison appealed to supporters to focus on the dire and growing needs of the many young adults living with autism today who will soon find themselves with little to no resources as they turn 21. As part of their mission, REED will address the unique challenges people with autism face into adulthood.
“Talk to your family, friends and neighbors about autism and the high rate here and across the country,” she said emphatically. “Tell them how you are involved with REED and how if we don’t do this together then we cannot move the needle forward. Involve them. Tell them about the REED Foundation for Autism and ask them to support us and our efforts to change how we tackle the broad landscape and complexities of serving the autism community.”
The fall event benefitted the Foundation’s school REED Academy and featured world-renowned cover band, B-Street. Partygoers rocked the night away to the best of Bruce Springsteen as they opened their hearts to support an important cause. The evening also featured an instant win game, silent auction and live ask for a new school minivan.
With more than $120,000 raised, including a brand-new Toyota Sienna to transport REED students into the community for learning experiences and jobs, the night was deemed a huge success.