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Connecting for Kids Fundraiser

On Friday evening we went to the Ahern's Banquet Center in Avon for the Third Annual Fundraiser for Connecting for Kids, which according to the information that we were given, "was formed in 2011 with a mission to provide education and support to families who have questions or concerns about their child's development (including behavioral concerns)." It provides support to "families with children from birth to twelve years of age, including those with and without a formal diagnosis such as ADHD or an autism spectrum disorder." It also offers "programs for children who may be described as shy, anxious, impulsive or quick to anger." Some of the ways that it does this are parental discussion groups, hands on programs to teach parents, family fun days, seminars/lectures by specialists, counseling on marriage and sibling issues, or just plain "coffee and chat."

When we arrived we saw that our friend Mr. Kenny G., from the North Coast Chamber of Commerce, was acting as D.J. for the evening and he called our name on his microphone. Neither of us were expecting to see each other at this event. We were also approached by Ms. Irene Williams because she saw our name badge and it turned out that she is a good friend of our Mr. Leo Shipcka.

We really enjoyed meeting Ms. Sarah Rintamaki, the Executive Director, along with her mother, Ms. Carolyn Anderson who told us that last year this event was held at Panini's in Westlake and was attended by over 400 people so they decided to move to a larger venue. This year there were 415 RSVP's and quite a few walk in's so Connecting with Kids is growing more renowned. We also met Ms. Kathy Nash, President of the Board of Connecting for Kids and Ms. Lisa Stevens, Media Coordinator at Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, who was acting as emcee.

We shared a table with Mr. Shawn D. Mueller of the North Ridgeville Rotary. Mr. Mueller told us about the different programs that the rotary was involved in such as its student exchange program and how the North Ridgeville chapter was instrumental in bringing young people to the United States from such places as Thailand, Germany, and Brazil. In fact, one student from Taiwan stayed at his house and is now regarded as a family member. Also sitting at our table was Dr. K.V. Gopal who immigrated to the United States from India and did his residency at Fairview Hospital. He, himself, did not use the services of Margaret W. Wong and Associates but he knew several people who had.

Later in the evening, awards were given out and one of the recipients was Mr. Todd Meany of Fox 8 News who had given Connecting for Kids a lot of exposure. His award was presented to him by Ms. Rintamaki who said, "I just whisper talking to one parent at a time but Todd has a megaphone."

Another award was given to Ms. Natalie Fior, Principal of Erieview Elementary School in Avon Lake. Among Ms. Fior's accomplishments was the introduction of the "buddy bench" to her school. We learned that children will sit on the "buddy bench" to indicate that they wanted someone to play with and their classmates would see them and try to include them in their activities. "Buddy benches" first appeared in the United States in 2013 (after a youngster noticed one in Germany) and show a lot of potential particularly if schools teach their students about why it is there and what its purpose is. Accordingly, Connecting with Kids offers a "Beyond the Bench Training Program" for students and school staff.

We talked to several parents and learned that Connecting with Kids offers a "level of connecting and outreach that you won't find anywhere else." Another person said that Ahern's Banquet Center was "full of people who care about each other" and "it's good to be with people who understand the journey you are on."

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