Frank and Linda Kuepper of the Autism Cares Foundation are joined by Jacqueline Laurita and her son, Nicholas, at a recent event in New Jersey.
(PCM) As a reality TV star, Jacqueline Laurita is accustomed to high drama, but off-camera is when the reality of motherhood stirs the most emotions in her life.
Laurita, of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, (RHONJ), is the mother of a five-year-old son, Nicholas, who was recently diagnosed with autism.
Since that first moment that his mom saw Nicholas struggle with speech and socialization issues, she began a tireless search to find answers: therapists, teachers, activities and groups that would improve his life.
One group she discovered is the Autism Cares Foundation, a non-profit charity started by Linda Kuepper, a loving mom, at her kitchen table in Richboro, Pennsylvania, six years ago, that each year provides hundreds of social programs, events, and classes for children, teens and young adults with autism, and their families.
Now the Autism Cares Foundation is spreading its wings, and Laurita wants to be involved. The Foundation recently became a registered charity in the state of New Jersey, and expects the same status later this year in New York and Delaware, as well.
The two moms recently got together at a special party at the Bounce U in Paramus, New Jersey, to introduce the Autism Cares Foundation to New Jersey families. Wearing a tie-dye Autism Cares T-Shirt and chic black high-heeled suede boots, Laurita and her son, Nicholas, enjoyed a day of bouncing, and sliding, as well as pizza, cake and music.
“It’s really special when you can get together with families coping with similar circumstances,” Laurita recently said about the Autism Cares Foundation event.
“It’s comforting for the parents to know that they are not alone on this journey and to be able to exchange resources with each other,” Laurita explained. “Children on the autism spectrum have a hard time socializing, so it’s very important that you keep putting them in social situations to face their fears and get used to interacting and connecting with others.”
The recent launch for the Foundation in New Jersey went off without a hitch. “We enjoyed meeting new families and making new friends, and to see how much fun everyone was having. It was truly a wonderful day,” said Kuepper. “The families expressed that they would love to have Autism Cares Foundation come back and several of the mom’s showed a strong interest in starting a chapter for us!”
The two caring moms first met in March at a taping of Dr. Jo Anne White’s Power Your Life cable TV show to talk about autism, how it has impacted their lives, and what families with children who have special needs can do to improve their lives.
“People all over want the kind of help that we provide as they can clearly see the difference that our offerings make in each child’s life,” explained Kuepper.
“This Paramus event couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for the Foundation because Autism Cares Foundation is now also a registered charity in the state of New Jersey,” Kuepper said. “We’d like to thank Jacqueline from RHONJ for all her help and support in making this event a huge success.”
The Foundation’s next big event is the 5th Annual Race for Resources, taking place on November 8, at Tyler State Park Center for the Arts in Richboro, PA. The race is supported by the Bucks County Autism Support Coalition, and large crowds came out for last year’s race. There will be a 5K Run, a 10K Run, a Family Fun Walk and an Autism Expo. The family-oriented event also includes a moon bounce, video game bus, rock wall, a visit from the Philly Phanatic, and much more.
Last year alone, more than 4,000 teens, young adults and their family members participated in one of the Foundation’s special events and programs like the New Jersey event.
Since its inception, the Foundation has provided 500 free events and programs to families. These programs are strictly supported by donations from individuals and businesses. The local outings include: sensory-friendly movies, bounce parties, fitness classes, life skills classes, Glee Club, hay rides, outings to watch the Phillies and other sports teams play, teen dances, teen proms, various holiday parties and more.
“We look forward to the next event in New Jersey, and our upcoming local event – our Race For Resources on November 8,” said Kuepper “It’s time for everyone to get involved and make a difference in the lives of children with autism!”
Here is a recent chat with Jacqueline Laurita about her son, improving the lives of children with autism far and wide, and her hit TV show Real Housewives of New Jersey:
Q: What was your view of the recent Autism Cares Foundation event?
JACQUELINE LAURITA: We had a really nice day. I think it’s great what the Foundation is doing for these families. They have a great team, too. They are all about awareness, understanding and acceptance. It’s beautiful to see. I was happy to be a part of it.
Q: What did your son enjoy about the recent bounce part hosted by the Autism Cares Foundation?
JL: My son, Nicholas, loves to jump and slide so he had a blast doing both while working out his energy. He even hugged a little girl.
Q: What else did he partake in?
JL: I could see he really enjoyed the gluten free, casein free, soy free cake provided by Pattie Lerner’s Sweet Megan Baking Company that he ate while listening to his favorite music therapist Jennifer Pacht-Goodman of sing some familiar songs!
Jacqueline Laurita, and Linda Kuepper, are entertained at a recent event for families of children with autism by Jennifer Pacht-Goodman of Jammin Jenn, a New Jersey music therapist, who works with Laurita’s son Nicholas.
Q: What is the biggest challenge as a mom of a child with autism?
JL: I think the biggest challenge for a mom having a child on the autism spectrum is watching your child struggle to communicate, express himself, and fit in with his peers.
Q: What is the biggest joy?
JL: The biggest joy is watching them achieve their goals, big or small, and when you can feel a connection between you and your child.
Q: Why do the New Jersey families need the Autism Cares Foundation, its programs and special events?
JL: I would say that New Jersey families need ACF because they are all about awareness, understanding and acceptance, which is what we, as families with children on the spectrum need! They do amazing things to get families involved in the community and for our children.
Q: Are you looking forward to the next ACF event?
JL: Yes. I enjoy Linda Kuepper, the founder of ACF, and all of the wonderful people involved with her foundation. She has a great team that is so dedicated and so I always look forward to seeing their kind hearts again.
Q: How has it been for you to be back on The Real Housewives of New Jersey?
JL: As stressful as it is, at times, to be back on RHONJ, it does bring a lot of awareness to the Autism Community and it certainly helps us pay for our child’s treatments and therapies!
Q: How has your reality show changed your life?
JL: Had it not been for the show, I may have not had the opportunity to meet all the wonderful people I have had the pleasure and opportunity to have met who have helped our family in so many ways. I may also not have had the platform I have now, to raise awareness and make a difference to so many families affected by an autism diagnosis. I am very grateful.