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Calls to Action

2004 National Young Leadership Awards

The National Alliance for Autism Research is Proud to Announce our Award Recipients
April 23, 2007

2004 National Young Leadership Award - An "Honor Roll" of those young leaders who have made significant contributions to the National Alliance for Autism Research.

Across the country, young people are making a difference in their communities by raising awareness about autism spectrum disorders and critically needed funds for autism research. In addition they are creating opportunities for their peers to get involved with NAAR events. To celebrate the contributions of these motivated and dedicated young leaders NAAR announced The NAAR National Young Leadership Awards in August 2004.

The following individuals were nominated by NAAR volunteers and staff in September 2004. They comprise the first semi-annual NAAR National Young Leadership Awards.

The National Alliance for Autism Research is Proud to Announce our Award Recipients

13 and Under Division

Devin Marie Cerise, Garden City, NY
Age: 10 School: Stratford Avenue School

At the age of just 10 years old Devin wanted to be the team captain for her brother's team, Owen Cerise's Team. To this day Devin has attended the Long Island Kickoff Luncheon and has pitched in to make posters to hang in her school. This year, she even created a Just Giving donation site. On this site Devin has been able to raise over $3000 for autism research! We are all so proud of her and all the hard work she has done at such a young age to fund autism research!

- Karen Cerise, Chair, Long Island Walk 2002

Cassandra Crowley, MA
Age: 10 School: Pearce School

For two years Cassandra Crowley is the devoted team captain of Cole's Learning Angels. This team was created in honor of her brother, Cole. Cole has autism and she makes sure to take extra special care of him. A great helper to the NAAR New England staff, Cassandra volunteers at the NAAR office after school to assist with mailings and other office work. This the spring she even pitched in when the staff

was unable to locate more volunteers to assist in office projects. Cassandra's done a wonderful job on all of the tasks that were given to her. Cassandra is an all-around leader as the team captain of her team and an ambassador for NAAR.

- Kimberly Niederst, New England Regional Director

Stephanie Davis, Trumbull, CT
Age: 10 School: Tashua Elementary

Stephanie has been supporting autism with NAAR for her cousin, David Krinsky, for nearly four years. This year, Stephanie, a budding new artist, decided to make heart-shaped pins out of hot glue and metallic materials. Each unique piece was sold for $1.00 with 100% of the proceeds donated to NAAR for autism research. So far, she has been able to raise over $1,000 for this important cause. A local celebrity, Stephanie and her work have been featured in her hometown newspaper and the Connecticut Post. Her proud Aunt, Margie Pascetta, stated, "I just think it's marvelous she's doing this for her cousin, and from her heart".

- Kimberly Niederst, New England Regional Director

Read more about Stephanie's heart pins...

Seamus Dolnick, St. Louis, MO
Age: 5 School: Carman Trails (Parkway School District)

Seamus is proof that you're never to young to start spreading the word! He has set up his lemonade stand throughout the summer to raise funds for NAAR. It is so important to him, that he has taken this endeavor on

vacation with him to his grandparent's home in Ohio, and brought his cousins into the operation. Recently, Seamus told his Mom (St. Louis Walk Co-Chair - Colleen Dolnick) that she needed to help him think of ways to make "really big money." His constant pushing for more brought much brainstorming to our local Walk list- serv, trying to help figure out how we could all do more family-oriented fundraising. Seamus also organized this year's St. Louis Walk ribbon cutting ceremony by highlighting the committee members' children - inviting them all to help in the ribbon cutting of the starting line on Walk Day. Thank you Seamus for making such a difference and for supporting NAAR!

- Jamie Spies, St. Louis Walk Co-Chair, 2003, 2004

Read Seamus' Ribbon Cutting invitation...

Ruth Fong, Somerset, NJ
Age: 11 School: Timothy Christian School

Since age seven, Ruth understood the importance of research. She has been walking with Angels 4 Autism in honor of her siblings with autism to raise funds for three years. In 2003, she urged her parents to write a letter to Merck & Co. encouraging the company to become a corporate sponsor of the Central New Jersey walk. Merck signed

on as a sponsor! In 2004, Ruth again wrote a letter to Merck's president asking for the company's continued sponsorship support, and Merck renewed its commitment! With all the confidence of an skilled businesswoman, in April she then sent a letter to Kohl's urging them to participate as a corporate sponsor through their Care for Kids program. And as you can imagine, Kohl's said yes! Ruth's involvement in the autism community is a testament to her good nature and kind heart.

- Dina Schwab, New Jersey Area Director & Chin-Lin Fong, Team Captain 2002-2004

Read Ruth's Corporate Sponsorship letters and her Community Involvement speech...

Jacqueline Hubbard, Woburn, MA
Age: 11 School: St. Agnes School

Jacqueline is a true autism supporter. Her twin brother, Robert, is the driving force behind all her efforts to raise autism awareness and funds for NAAR. Recently featured in the Woburn Daily Times, Jacqueline stated, "Courage is facing the unknown, even if it's scary". This April, to recognize Autism Awareness Month, she and her family held a car wash outside Woburn City Hall that helped to raise $1,300 for autism research. Her unwavering love, compassion, and understanding for Robert and those touched by autism is remarkable. She has vowed "when we grow up, I'll take good care of him". As Jacqueline put it best, "nobody can split our hearts and spirits apart".&

- Kimberly Niederst, New England Regional Director

Read more about Jacqueline's Car Wash

Evan Williams, Plaistow, NH
Age: 13 School: Timberlane Middle School

Evan is his brother Hunter's number one fan. The captain of Hunter's Hound Dogs, he's been a Walk participant for three years and raised more than $2,800. Recently Evan submitted an essay discussing what his life has been like living with his brother. This essay won him the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game! Evan is a source of great support for his family. When

his brother is having a tantrum he often says to his mother, "let me take over; take a break" and proceeds to hold Hunter and apply deep pressure in an attempt to calm him down. An autism advocate, Evan always tries to explain Hunter's condition to his friends and people at school. He says, "I hope I can pass on information that will enlighten others about what Hunter goes through everyday".

- Kimberly Niederst, New England Regional Director

Read more about Evan's story

14 to 21 Division

Kelly Quinn, Torrington, CT
Age: 17 Miss Connecticut Teen America 2004

Kelly, Miss Connecticut Teen America 2004, joined the Westchester/Fairfield Walk F.A.R. for NAAR at Manhattanville walk on June 6, 2004. During the program Kelly spoke about her connection to autism through her brother, Dan. In the Miss Teen America national pageant in July, Kelly's issue of concern was the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the mainstream community. As well as having the responsibilities of Miss CT Team America, Kelly ranked as one of the top 10 contestants in the National Miss Teen America Pageant and she is the winner of the Public Service Announcement (PSA) award. Kelly personally raised over $1,100 for NAAR this year.

- Linda Talbert, Co-Chair, Westchester/Fairfield Walk 2004, 2005

Isaac Slings, Altoona, IA
Age: 15 School: Southeast Polk High School

Isaac has been an excellent volunteer, persistent fundraiser, and best friend. He has proved indispensable at the walks, volunteering at all three Des Moines walks. He just pitches in whenever or where ever help is needed and even directs the other volunteers! He is always one of the first ones at the walk site and the last to leave. In the eyes of the committee members, his unwavering positive attitude makes him a

joy with whom to work. In addition, Isaac has done a phenomenal job raising hundreds of dollars for NAAR. He speaks with his friends and teachers soliciting even the smallest donations, but for Isaac it all adds up. He has designed several walk team T-shirts according to very specific instructions from his cousin touched by autism. They are the best of friends!

- Lisa Arechavaleta, Chair, Iowa Walk 2003, 2004

Kathryn Bannon, Greenwich, CT
Age: 18 School: Greenwich High School

Kathryn Bannon has been a devoted volunteer to NAAR for the past two years. During these years, Kathryn, who is part of the Greenwich High School's Habitat for Humanity Club, organized at least 30 students through the club and friends she knew to volunteer their time for the walk. She organized all her volunteers in different logistical areas including face painting, blowing up balloons, helping with the bounce castles, and directing walk participants to several entertainment areas for all to enjoy. This past year she was able to recruit students to bring Tigger, Pokemon and other characters to life for all the participating children to enjoy. The help that Kathryn provided and organized for the Westchester/Fairfield Walk F.A.R. for NAAR insured its 2003 & 2004 success!

- Linda Talbert, Co-Chair Westchester/Fairfield Walk 2004, 2005

Elizabeth Boyd, Port Charlotte, FL
Age: 15 School: Lemon Bay High School

Elizabeth, or Super Teen Bethy, as I call her, has been the co-chair of the Southwest Florida walk for the past 2 years. She was only twelve years old when her brother, Austin, was diagnosed with autism and thirteen when she became the youngest co-chair of a NAAR Walk event

nationwide. Her family of seven and her work with NAAR mean everything to Beth who has pledged to care for Austin for the rest of her life. She is the 2003-2004 overall winner of the Charlotte County (FL) "Do the Right Thing" award. At the televised regional awards she invited everyone to Walk F.A.R. for NAAR. Beth never misses an opportunity to publicize NAAR and raise autism awareness...a true leader!

- Tammie Baker, Southwest Florida Committee member, 2003, 2004

Read more about Elizabeth's story and her "Do the Right Thing Award"...

Annie Brady, Hamilton, NJ
Age: 15 School: Nottingham High School

It has been a inspiration to know and work with Annie Brady on Walk related business. She is mature beyond her years and has been a valuable member of the Central New Jersey committee. Her commitment to NAAR and her siblings with autism is astounding. Annie has been the co-captain of her family team, Jake

Brigade, for four years. This year she was also the Youth Walk Chair, facilitating Central New Jersey's first annual "Junior Kickoff Dinner". The fact that she challenges her former “Jake Brigade” walkers to form their own teams, despite the negative impact that would have on her own team fundraising goals, is part of what I find so special about her. She has a unique ability to see the “big picture” and is committed to helping grow the Walk program as well as advocate for her siblings. I find comfort in knowing that while I do not have any “neurotypical” children of my own, there are extraordinary young people like Annie, who will grow up to be such strong advocates for all children with autism.

- Christine Bakter, Chair, Central Jersey Walk 2004

Read Annie's recruitment letter

Andrew D'Amico, Woodbury, NJ
Age: 18 School: West Deptford High School

Andrew has proved to be an active member of the Greater Delaware Valley Chapter of NAAR by becoming involved with all walk committee meetings and recruiting people for each annual walk. His accomplishments as a child with autism were recognized by Congressman Rob Andrews (NJ) at the June 8, 2004 Congressional Record. He has allowed his story to be told in numerous newspaper articles which has helped many more people to come forward as autism supporters. This year Andrew rallied over 75 students from his high school's Marching Band to get involved with the Walk F.A.R. for NAAR campaign. Andrew's leadership was additionally recognized when he was selected to the National Honor Society West Deptford High School Chapter.

- Frank D'Amico, Co-Chair Southern New Jersey Walk, 2003, 2004

Read more about Andrew's story with the U.S. Congressman Robert Andrews and Miss New Jersey...

NAAR is currently accepting recommendations for the next listing of the NAAR Young Leadership Honor Roll. Members will be announced in April, 2005 - a fitting month as it is both Autism Awareness Month, as well as Volunteer Appreciation Month.

For information about NAAR's Young Leadership Honor Roll and/or volunteer opportunities for youth in your community, please contact us at 888-777-NAAR x34 or email us at