Skip navigation

Calls to Action

What We're Thankful For: Stories from Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks staffers share what they are thankful for this year. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family from all of us at Autism Speaks!

Liz Feld, President

On this Thanksgiving I am so thankful for the effort, energy and passion of the wonderful Autism Speaks community of staff, volunteers and families around the country and the world.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone…


Denise Bianchi, Autism Response Team Coordinator

We are thankful for easy mornings and good days at school!  


Ali Dyer, Social Media Coordinator

I wake up every morning with gratitude; How lucky I am to be healthy, to love, and to be loved. My brother Jeff has my heart - every last fiber of it. He is love in the purest of forms, for so many. 

I am thankful that his courage in facing an unsure world has rubbed off on me; I am thankful he keeps me honest. I am thankful that he challenges me to push outside my comfort zones and strive to connect with all people. I am only one person, but he does this with each person he meets, and reflecting on it, I'm truly overwhelmed by the ripple effects.

I guess what I mean to say is, that I am honored to be an extension of him and I am grateful to have a front row seat in watching him make the world a better place - one interaction at a time. 


Christina Carty, Director, Programs & Services – Northeast

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and share this great mission each day; I get to do so with humor and passion thanks to the best boss and partner in outreach, Marianne Sullivan. 

I am also incredibly grateful for my two other bosses who inspire and delight me each day, Julian and Lily.      


Kori Buro, Director of Field Development of Northern New Jersey

I am thankful and feel blessed for my little girls who remind me to smile, enjoy the moments and to not forget to laugh (at myself) every day.    


Lauren Elder, Assistant Director of Dissemination Science

This year, I’m particularly grateful my family will all be together. It’s my niece’s first Thanksgiving, and my brother is finally home after 5 years in the military


Erin Enyart, Senior Coordinator, Field Development Iowa/Nebraska 

I am thankful for my family’s health and happiness, and I look forward to the extra time we are able to spend together during the holiday season. I am also grateful to be ringing in another year with my husband and children- 2014 will be our best year yet!  


Mike Wuebben, Chief of Digital Stategy 

I'm thankful for my three kids who are always looking out for each other, and my wife who keeps us all sane.


Rob Ring, Chief Science Officer

I am thankful for having a incredibly passionate science department to work with every day. They get up every morning ready to put nerdy science to work for families. I am thankful for their dedication and patience with the recent transition in leadership. I am also thankful to the many families out there in the community who teach me daily what the real mission of science is all about. To them I say there is hope around the corner.

I am thankful for an amazing family that supports me in what I do at Autism Speaks. My family has sacrificed so much in terms of time with daddy to allow me the opportunity to do what I do for the community. 


Judith Ursitti, Director, State Government Affairs

I'm thankful my son, Jack, is finding new and meaningful ways to tell me what he thinks.  


Marianne Sullivan, Managing Director, Regional Programs and Services-West

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Being with family and friends and taking that special time to reflect and to express appreciation is so important for me. With that in mind, I wish you and yours the best of the Thanksgiving!



Pam Eisenberg, Senior Director of Field Development, Southern California Chapter


Ann Gibbons, Senior Regional Director, Southeast

Thankful for my friends and family who walk with my son Philip up and down the Hill!


Cathy Kanefsky, Vice President, Chapter Development

I couldn’t be more thankful for the blessing of our three boys.  Twins Sam and Adam both have autism and teach us to appreciate every accomplishment and every opportunity.  Stephen is studying to be an elementary education teacher, with a concentration in special education.  The world is a better place because these three boys are in it.


Anne Juaire, Corporate Development Manager

This is the first time in 15 years my family will be back together for Thanksgiving. Even though the distance is far between each of us, we’re always in each other’s hearts. My brother is getting married over Thanksgiving and I also get to welcome a new sister into our family. I am so thankful to my parents in raising our family and to be back together again, we’ve come a long way!


Michael Rosen, Executive Vice President, Strategic Communications

I am thankful for Thanksgiving because of the health and happiness of my family and friends.  I have always loved Thanksgiving because it is not about presents but about family, friends and great food. I also love Thanksgiving because it is by far my son Nicky's favorite holiday. Nicky is 25 and non verbal. But he can find a turkey in his favorite book (Madeline in London) or a food magazine from miles away. For weeks I have been telling him about every side dish he will be eating with his turkey and every person who will be there.  He gets Thanksgiving to its essence--- family and food. There's nothing better and nothing makes my beautiful boy happier.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!


Daniel Mermelstein, Event & Program Development

I’m grateful for my smartphone.  Living away from family can be hard year after year, but I know any of them are available by phone or Internet connection 24/7.  Technology keeps us close so when we see each other again, it’s almost like we’ve never been apart.


Melissa Barton Sr. Director, Palm Beach

I have many wonderful things in life to be thankful for. We have a good life, with lots of laughs, love and joy. We are blessed with many friends and family, four great dogs and my love is my best friend. But above all of this, we are blessed with seven children; each have unique needs and two are our 1 in 88. My children are my passion, they are the reason I advocate for equality and fair treatment of children on the spectrum. Through trials and tribulations my children are my silver lining. 


J-Jaye Hurley, Autism Response Team Coordinator

This year, the Hurley family is thankful for Ryan’s wonderful new career, our funny, happy baby girl Reese, my continued work here at Autism Speaks Family Services, and for our beautiful son, Jackson, who works harder each day than all of us combined. We are thankful for our team of medical specialists here for him in Atlanta, and we always are thankful for “Team Jackson” - his teachers, parapros, close friends and dedicated team of therapists who are with us each step of the way. I am also thankful for a great season of Ole Miss Rebel football (Beat State!) and that my mother-in-law is hosting the big turkey dinner at her house which means I don’t have to clean! 


Gary Jaworski, Senior Vice President of Development

Every day is Thanksgiving because of my wonderful son, James.  He is a gift and a treasure, and I love him beyond measure.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.