March 5 Fundraiser Planned to Support Scholarships
The Bethany Leapley Autism Spectrum Disorder Scholarship Fund is hosting its 3rd annual Craft Beer and Wine Tasting on Saturday, March 5th at 7 p.m. The evening will feature a delicious selection of beer and wine, hors d’oeuvres and sweet treats, music and silent auction items including golf outings, Red Sox tickets, autographed Doug Flutie photo, spa treatments and more. This takes place at St. Barbara’s Church at 480 Racebrook Road. All funds collected will be used to award scholarships to those in need to attend the ASD Fitness Center, which serves children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, providing a safe, comfortable and structured environment for empowering individuals with ASD to improve their level of physical fitness.
Hamden resident Stephanie Bryant began bringing her son Maurice, 7, to the ASD Fitness Center last April and she says the change in her son is incredible. “He had such a problem with balance before—he couldn’t walk down the stairs by himself. He would fall off of chairs if they didn’t have arms to hold him,” Bryant said. She joined a support group in West Haven and was introduced to the center when a guest speaker addressed the group. “I was looking for any help I could get,” Bryant says. “The ASD Fitness Center made wonders happen.”
Even Maurice’s gym teacher noticed the quick difference in his physical abilities. The child who once needed individualized attention in gym is now keeping up with his peers for the entire gym class. Maurice attends the fitness center three days a week and takes karate there on Fridays.
“He can sit in a chair for more than 10 minutes!” Bryant said. “While he’s walking, he keeps his balance and walks with his head held high. He used to be so self-conscious, being in a regular elementary school, but he’s not anymore.” Maurice’s training involves treadmills, balance beams and rock climbing walls.
The ASD Fitness Center offers one-on-one personal training with certified trainers, all whom have backgrounds in special education. The gym uses the Bal-A-Vis-X (an acronym for Balance – Auditory – Vision –eXercises) approach to exercise. These exercises are deeply rooted in rhythm and range from simple to complex. The majority of the exercises is done with sand-filled bags and/or racquet balls and may incorporate the use of a balance board. The exercises can be adapted to work with children and adults of all abilities. The center also offers a variety small group classes such as Adaptive Karate, Hip-Hop, Yoga and Circuit Cardio.
“Even beyond the physical part of it, Maurice is comfortable and happy at the fitness center. It feels like a big family and he’s really enjoyed meeting people of all ages there,” Bryant says. “He loves the community events that they hold—the Sensitive Santa, a group trip to a corn maze, they’re decorating cookies for Valentine’s Day.”
She hopes that the fundraiser will mean more families can benefit from the fitness center’s offerings. All funds collected will be utilized to award scholarships to children and adults for the ASD Fitness Center. Last year’s event raised $50,000 that was distributed as scholarships to families who otherwise could not have afforded to send their family member with autism to the center.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent