Thank You, Rockaway!

 Thank You, Rockaway!

By Kami-Leigh Agard

What a year! As Helen Keller aptly stated, “Alone we can do little, together we can do so much.” And Rockaway, because of you—since Rockaway Beach Autism Families’ (RBAF) humble beginnings in 2016—we are still alive and kicking! This year, 2023, is definitely one I will always hold dear because with immense community support, we finally realized our dream of RBAF hosting the first-ever autism walk on the boardwalk in Rockaway! Plus, after years of being chided by my family for exhausting my financial resources on RBAF, this year ended with a windfall of blessings. Like I’ve repeatedly said, it all comes back in some form—whether it’s with the success of helping a parent or seeing the smiles of families at our annual holiday party. And with the amazing team of RBAF members, Richie Knott of Knights of Columbus, Tiffany Turchi of Rockaway Beach Dance Company and Rockaway WISH, Rockaway WAVES, The Best Dressed Man In Rockaway, O’Malley Irish Dance Academy, John Moroney of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, The Rockaway Times, and many local residents and businesses—time and time again—it has come back exceedingly, beyond our wildest dreams.

For example, on Thursday, December 14, the Belisario Cruz team at Compass Realty, owned by business partners and Rockaway residents, Joe Cruz and Louis Belisario, held their firm’s holiday party as a fundraiser for RBAF. I was simultaneously shocked and honored when Joe contacted me about their idea. I first met Joe when he and his family attended RBAF’s 2022 End-of-Summer Barbecue at Knights of Columbus, and since then, he has supported RBAF’s endeavors. Then, just this past week, local Mary Glynn, a board member of Rewired Autism, through her organization, donated towards helping RBAF with the shipping of gifts to the autistic community in Lahaina, a town in Maui, Hawaii, still rebuilding after this past August’s wildfires.

Folks, I’m still in shock, but the heavy lifting continues! The dream has always been for RBAF to have its own space, where we can host weekly parent trainings on critical programming such as the Front Door process and Self Direction through NYS Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), which coordinates services for individuals with developmental disabilities; a mental health support group for parents and autistic individuals; building a program to not just source employment for working-age autistic individuals, but also provide job site supports; and so much more. However, in the interim, a lot can still be done and with 2024 being an open canvas—there’s so much to strive towards and accomplish, including expanding RBAF’s second annual autism walk on the boardwalk. And folks, your feedback and ideas are not just welcomed, but encouraged! Feel free to email: We are a village, and together—let’s continue unleashing Rockaway’s magic for the autism community! To borrow RT Columnist Dan Mahon catchphrase (albeit tweaking it a bit): Rockaway, why would anyone want to live anywhere else? Happy New Year and God bless!

RBAF’s next family support group meeting will be Thursday, January 18, 7 p.m. at Knights of Columbus (333 Beach 90th Street). For more info, visit: Rockaway Beach Autism Families on Facebook/ Instagram.

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