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Scooping the way to autism awareness

Kresson school's ice cream fundraiser draws on community support

Children from Kresson Elementary School enjoed ice cream as they lined up for face painting at the inaugural Super Scooper event last month.

Members of the community gathered inside and outside of Kresson Elementary on a chilly April 18 for the school’s first Super Scooper event, an initiative aimed at raising awareness and support for the school’s autism and special needs classrooms.

The idea resulted from the dedication of Julie Calem and Alysa Cooper, two members of the Kresson Parent Faculty Association Board (KPFA) as well as Kresson Cares co-chairs, whose commitment to inspire community service and inclusion has resulted in enhanced understanding of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among students and parents alike.

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Calem was inspired to hold the event by her previous volunteer experience with the Joshua Kahan Fund’s annual Super Scooper fundraiser, which left a lasting impression on her with its community engagement and fundraising model. The event features unlimited ice cream and water ice.

“We raised an incredible $2,785 for our special needs classrooms, which means there were an estimated 500 people who came out to show support,” Cooper said.

Calem and Cooper began planning for last month’s Super Scooper last summer, envisioning a family-friendly gathering for children and adults to learn about and contribute to understanding of autism.

“The idea was to create a fun event that also served an educational purpose,” Calem explained. “We wanted everyone to leave not just with happy memories of the day, but also with a deeper understanding of what it means to live with autism.”

The event featured a looping video slideshow presented by the township school district’s Child Study Team that offered insights into ASD through videos, statistics and research results. Calem and Cooper anticipated the event would promote inclusion in the Kresson school community.

“The role of Kresson Cares is to promote an understanding and appreciation about different groups and cultivate relationships.”

Local businesses played a crucial role in the Super Scooper event by donating all 61 gallons of its ice cream and water ice. They included Sundaes and Richman’s Ice Cream, Diane’s Italian Water Ices and Rita’s Water Ice. The event also saw support from various foundations and vendors.

Kresson teachers and staff volunteered to scoop ice cream and engage with families and music was provided by DJ Nick – aka Nick Tyson – who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3.

Reflecting on the event’s success, Kresson Elementary Principal Stacey Morris expressed satisfaction with the community’s involvement.

“We cannot be more thrilled about the turnout for our first ever Super Scooper event,” she said. “Our Kresson families are amazing, and the support shown for our special needs community through this event is truly heartwarming.

“This was also a great way to celebrate (April’s) Autism Awareness Week within our community,” added Morris, who also thanked Calem and Cooper for “turning their vision into a reality.”

The success of the inaugural Super Scooper event may mean it becomes an annual event.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback and the active participation from our community,” Calem noted. “It’s heartening to see such enthusiasm and support, and we are excited about the potential of this event to grow even bigger in the years to come.”

Cooper remarked on the scale and impact of the initiative, noting its significance in the broader scope of the organization’s efforts.

“This was by far the biggest event that Kresson Cares has coordinated in the last several years,” she pointed out. “Each year, we try and showcase and support different charities and populations.”

Both Alysa and Julie are thankful for KPFA and all of the volunteers for helping make the event a success.

Donations are still being accepted. Contact the school for more information.

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