When we first held that precious baby in our arms, we had no idea what the future would hold. Nicholas was our 2nd child and was the little brother that our older son, Anthony, always wanted. Fast forward two years and we noticed, along with our pediatrician, that Nick wasn’t reaching his age milestones…walking and talking were his biggest delays. Out of nowhere we heard the word “Autism” for the first time uttered by our doctor. Autism wasn’t a common term during this time, in fact the number of children diagnosed in the USA was around 1 in 10,000 versus the statistics we are seeing today of 1 in 68.
This diagnosis sent us on a path we could never imagine. Initially having feelings of denial, shock, anger and finally acceptance. We realized that we had to be the advocate for our Nicholas at that point and figure out how to get him the help that he needed. Due to the nature of Autism, early intervention is the key and we learned what that entailed quickly. Our house was overtaken by therapists 6-8 hours a day, resulting in the need for Kathy to quit her full-time career as a Kindergarten teacher just to facilitate the circus that our house had become. Our world had literally changed overnight.
With these therapies came expenses, nothing was covered by medical insurance at that point. We also quickly realized that the budgets weren’t in place for the school staff and the therapists coming to our house…we needed to find a way to raise money for these individuals and groups to properly help our Nicholas and the autism community as a whole…thus our first Auction for Autism was born in 2005. With the amazing help of our community, friends and family, it was more of a success then we could have ever imagined. We were now able to fill wish lists for Special Education teachers and therapists…buying weighted vests that cost over $100, fill technology needs with software and computers, assistive devices for speech and more. This was done with no red tape and still is to this day.
ONF has grown beyond our wildest dreams and we thank you for that. Over 3000 items have been purchased for local school districts, 4 Sensory Integration Rooms have been built, Peer Buddy programs have blossomed, Play Dates, Support Groups, Autism Summit, Sports Leagues…the list goes on and we see bigger things to come.
We have always been 100% Volunteer-ran with no salaries paid and we couldn’t have done this without the amazing support of people like yourself. When we first received the diagnosis of Autism for Nicholas, all we saw was the darkness…the challenge of getting out of bed in the morning to face another day of unexpected consequences of this disorder…but now we have seen the light and Nicholas has made our lives so much better. He has brought meaning into our world and taught us what is truly important…his impact on our family and friends cannot be measured in words. He still wakes up every day and says with his limited language that “it’s a beautiful day”…these autistic children and adults are angels on earth as they don’t judge anyone. As our oldest son Anthony says – “I know society calls my brother “Special”, but to me he is Special because he is my happy little brother”. We should all strive to be so “Special” in the way we treat others, with love and kindness, just like Nick does!
With Love and Gratitude,
Mark, Kathy, Anthony & Nicholas Anselmo
Founders of Our Nicholas Foundation