Dear Eden Families,
Autism Awareness Month wrapped up a few weeks ago. Recognized around the world, this awareness campaign is carried out with the purpose of increasing global understanding and acceptance of people with autism. Throughout the country, retailers and restaurants offer discounts, friends and family light lamps blue, and arts organizations provide sensory-friendly performances. Having worked in the field of developmental disabilities for 30 years, I appreciate the significance of Autism Awareness Month and recognize the opportunities that advocacy and fundraising have created for individuals with autism.
On the other hand, I know that every day has significance for individuals and families with autism. Whether reaching an individual education or support plan goal, or practicing job skills, those who are supported by organizations like Eden rise to the occasion day in and day out. And beyond awareness and acceptance, what we, as their advocates, seek is inclusion and engagement.
A great example of a long-time partner in Eden’s mission to improve the lives of people with autism is Wawa. The photo above captures the spirit and generosity of this company, whose stated core purpose is Fulfilling Lives, Every Day. Accepting the Wawa Foundation’s most recent grant to Eden Autism Services is Patrick Murphy, a student in Eden’s high school. On either side stand his mother Tara and his sister Aleta. They support Patrick, along with his father, teachers, and therapists, as he works on daily living, communication, and employment skills – seven days a week, twelve months of the year, into and ultimately, throughout his adult years.
Every day is a journey for Patrick’s family – full of what’s next, how will we, and what’s our alternate plan. On this day, Tara addressed Wawa staff and guests and explained that next year, when Patrick turns 21, his school services will conclude. Her hope is that Patrick will continue to progress after he graduates, within a thoughtful day program that includes employment. In a touching moment after his mother’s remarks, Patrick unexpectedly took the microphone and announced that he wanted to work at Wawa.
Eden’s services for Patrick and others are carried out 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Our 27 – soon to be 30 – group homes are staffed around the clock. Our school operates a 12 month program including a sleep-away camp for students aged 9 to 21. Engagement in the community is core to our curriculum and support services.
- 75 local businesses and organizations employ and engage Eden students and adult.
- 95% of Eden’s students in the transition to employment program are employed in the community, training within Eden, or job sampling.
- 76% of Eden’s adult participants are employed or volunteer.
- 24%, the balance of Eden’s adult participants, are retired or remain in the day program for medical, behavioral, or other reasons.
Beyond daily living skills and meaningful employment, Eden values and provides opportunities for the individuals we support to enjoy recreation and leisure activities which are key to well-being.
With the support of friends like Wawa, Eden is able to go above and beyond the services covered by our funding. Charitable contributions make the difference between the standard and the unique experience of attending the Eden School or the adult day, employment, and residential programs.
Our fiscal year comes to an end on June 30. Please join me, the Murphys, and the employees of Wawa in making a contribution and creating opportunities for Patrick and his Eden peers. Every gift is appreciated, whether $1 or $100,000. Donations may be made via edenautism.org.
With thanks to Wawa and all those who support Eden’s mission to improve the lives of people with autism one individual at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time.
Michael K. Decker
President & CEO