By Kami-Leigh Agard
It takes a special parent to raise a special child, and for the sixth year, local nonprofit, Perfect Piece of the Puzzle (PPoP), is calling on the community to nominate well-deserving parents to be awarded at the organization’s 2023 “You Deserve…” Awards Brunch, happening this year on Saturday, June 17 at The Rockaway Hotel. Also, this will be the first year PPoP is broadening their awardees pool to include schools, who go extra miles to make sure their special-abled students succeed. To top it off, this year’s awards brunch will feature as its keynote speaker, Jason Arday, an autistic British renowned sociologist, who was unable to read or write until the age of 18, yet is now the youngest Black professor ever appointed at England’s University of Cambridge.
In 2016, PPoP was founded by Arverne resident, Trisha Bermudez, mother of a now 10-year-old boy, who was born with a rare genetic disorder, causing concerns for life-long health issues and severe developmental delays. From doctors, daycare, recreational centers, and schools for her son, Bermudez knocked on all doors and pounded the pavement to get all the help her son would need to live a fulfilling life. However, frustrated by the dearth of resources, especially in Rockaway, Bermudez founded PPoP to bridge the gap between services and the families who need them. And as a passionate parent advocate, Bermudez said the idea for the organization’s “You Deserve…” Awards Brunch was inspired by her own journey as a parent and others she witnessed in the special-needs advocacy trenches.
Bermudez said, “I want to honor parents that take care of their special-needs children on a day-to-day basis; making sure that they’re advocated for and pushing for the best chances for them, whether it be in school or within society. So, the brunch is aimed at rightfully recognizing these parents, who put themselves last by sacrificing their own needs, even something as simple as going to a doctor’s appointment is put on the back burner. Like many parents, I always put my son, Matt, first. As caregivers, our main focus is always our kids and taking care of them, yet never making sure that we’re okay. However, if we’re not okay, our kids won’t be okay. So, this award ceremony is to show parents, we see you. We hear you. We recognize you. You deserve to be seen. You deserve to be heard. You deserve to be celebrated. And this why our awards brunch is called “You Deserve…”
As for why this year, PPoP is opening nominations to also include schools, Bermudez explained, “During Covid with my son’s remote learning, I started to realize that our schools don’t get recognized for the hard work they invest in our kids. I wanted to put schools in the mix because they are also advocating and pushing for our kids and want the best for them. And there’s some really awesome schools out there that don’t really get the recognition they deserve. Also, the teachers need to be celebrated too, letting them know that their hard work is being seen and heard.” For example, one local school PPoP has recognized is Waterside Children’s Studio School for their Nest Program. The NYC Department of Education’s Nest Program serves students with autism in a classroom with general education students, under the supervision and teaching of one special education teacher and one general education teacher.
In addition, as April is Autism Awareness Month, in conjunction with Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers and the Rockaway YMCA, PPop is hosting an autism sensory event on Saturday, April 29, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. This event will feature sight, sound and touch activities with a ball pit, live music, face painting, fitness and wellness, and snacks at the Rockaway YMCA (207 Beach 73rd Street). RSVPs must be received by April 24 via email: email@example.com or phone: (718) 527-4356.
For Bermudez, herself heavily accoladed with a plethora of awards for her special-needs advocacy work, even being dubbed, “Queens Person of the Week” by NY1, PPoP’s awards brunch is all about truly giving all caregivers of special-needs individuals the flowers they deserve. “I want these individuals and schools to be appreciated and seen,” Bermudez said.
If you would like to nominate a well-deserving parent of a special-needs child or a school, send in your nominations by visiting PPoP’s website: https://www.perfectpop.org/brunch and for more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org