Eden Autism Day of Giving 2024

Eden has become an integral part of Danny's Blue Crew

A Message from Danny's Aunt

One of my fondest memories of my children growing up is the day they created Danny’s Blue Crew, our Eden Autism 5K team that runs and walks to support my nephew, Danny. My sister and I had taken my son, daughter, and niece to see the Empire State Building lit up blue for Autism Awareness Day. Dressed in blue from head to toe, waving glow sticks like party favors, these three little people cheered from the top of the world when the lights went blue. They celebrated their cousin and brother and, in the process, educated everyone they met about autism acceptance.

On the train ride home, my sister explained to them that Danny’s new school Eden was having a 5K run to raise money. Excitedly, they brainstormed the name of their team, quickly landing on Danny’s Blue Crew. The debate came when they had to design the logo, which they knew should be a smiling puzzle piece. But the real question was, what type of shoes would the puzzle piece wear?

Danny hated shoes, but they recalled his new school had encouraged his mom to put him in high tops because they were harder to remove as they worked to help him get comfortable wearing shoes. So high tops it was, and on that April day on the midtown express, Danny’s Blue Crew became official, and our family’s commitment to supporting Eden was established.  Little did we know how big the crew would grow and how integral Eden would become in all our lives.  

As any family affected by autism knows, the time after diagnosis is challenging to say the least.  There are more questions than answers and the future can look very scary as you learn to navigate the unknowns. I remember this time well, as my entire family grappled with what Danny’s autism would mean for him and his future, especially as it became clear that he would likely remain non-verbal. He was so vulnerable, and it was hard to imagine trusting anyone outside our tightly knit family to care for him. 

Eden was the lifeline Danny and his family didn’t know they needed. Not only were they able to teach him the skills he needed, but they respected him, cared for him, and most importantly believed in him. Eden is a very special organization. It is much more than a school — it is a community and, for many, a family. Over the past 15 years we have come to rely on Eden for guidance and support. Not just for Danny, but for his parents, his sister, his grandparents, cousins, and our entire extended family. 

What impresses me most is that Eden has become part of Danny’s Blue Crew, the staff work with my sister and brother-in- law to push Danny to be the best version of himself, but they also love and support him like the rest of the crew. Eden holds a prominent place in our family’s memories: birthday celebrations at Eden, holiday programs, graduations, and of course the annual Eden 5K. But our relationship with Eden and its special staff was never more evident than last spring, almost 15 years to the day Danny’s Blue Crew was formed, when Danny was diagnosed with cancer. They say love shows up and Eden showed up for Danny and his family in their darkest hour. The love and support from the Eden staff and students and their families lifted Danny and his family up when they needed it most. The hospital and rehab doctors and nurses were shocked and impressed when Eden staff showed up to be with Danny so his parents could rest. Danny’s recovery would not have been as successful without the support of Eden.  

Danny and his family were blessed to have entered the Eden community when Danny was just 6 years old. With Eden’s help, Danny has grown into a spectacular young man, with a wicked sense of humor, a heart of gold, and the ability to overcome even the toughest challenges with a smile on his face and love in his heart. These qualities were nurtured at Eden, a testament to the compassion with which Eden encourages and empowers their students.

I encourage you to join me in supporting Eden Autism this April. Your contribution will help sustain Eden’s comprehensive services for Danny and his Eden friends.


Melanie Smith
Danny’s Aunt

This story is part of Eden Autism’s Day of Giving series celebrating Danny’s remarkable journey. For more information, visit www.edenautism.org/day-of-giving.

Danny with his Cousin

How Your Donation Will Help

Your gift will enable our teachers, direct support professionals, speech therapists, and staff continue to support individuals with autism and their families. From the classroom and doctor’s offices to residences and job sites, we are committed to ensuring all of the individuals we support lead engaging and fulfilling lives to the best of their abilities.