EAST ORANGE, NJ — Nadine Wright-Arbubakrr and the Nassan’s Place autism awareness and services nonprofit organization have offered numerous events throughout the summer, but the trip to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden proved the biggest one yet.
“It was an amazing night tonight being invited down to the aquarium in Camden by the HollyRod Foundation,” said Wright-Arbubakrr on Wednesday, Aug. 31, the date of the trip. “We brought over 135 of our children and families down to have a wonderful, wonderful night of sharks and turtles and all that great stuff and an opportunity to meet Holly Robinson-Peete, which was huge for all of us.
“She’s actually one of my heroes and our families were just treated to just an awesome, amazing night of great food, great entertainment and a whole lot of fun. On behalf of Nassan’s Place I want to thank the HollyRod Foundation. I want to thank Holly Robinson-Peete, her husband, Rodney Peete, and their amazing family for allowing us to be a part of such an awesome event.”
Best-known as actress Holly Robinson, who starred in the 1980s hit FOX TV series “21 Jump Street” and 1990s ABC-TV series “Hanging With Mr. Cooper,” she has a lot in common with Wright-Arbubakrr, as both married former NFL players and both have sons diagnosed with autism. The Peetes’ son is RJ and Nadine and Hassan Wright-Arbubakrr’s son is Nassan, the organization’s namesake.
The trip to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden was organized by Robinson-Peete’s HollyRod Foundation. According to its website, the HollyRod Foundation was founded in 1997 “to provide hope and help to those living with autism and Parkinson’s.” But, according to Wright-Arbubakrr, the trip to the Adventure Aquarium was about giving families dealing with autism a chance to get out and have some fun.
Cynthia Hannah, the parent of an autistic child, and Pat Wilson, a member of the Nassan’s Place Board of Directors, took part in the trip and shared in the enthusiasm.
“Oh my god, I am having a blast with the HollyRod Foundation,” said Wilson on Wednesday, Aug. 31. “I’m amped and I’m sleepy. … I worked a full day today at City National Bank of New Jersey, Jersey’s only black owned and operated commercial bank, and I came down here tonight to represent for special needs families in urban areas who are underserved.”
Wilson said, “This was awesome, to have the families come out, and they made all of this available for us. The food was good, the atmosphere was good.”
“What I was impressed with is that Holly’s family stayed through the entire event and they’re still here,” said Wilson on Wednesday, Aug. 31. “They didn’t just drop in and leave. They’re all still here to ensure that everyone had a great time and it is much appreciated. That tells me that she is the real deal.”
Hannah said she couldn’t agree more with Wilson.
“I just can’t say enough; I’m one of the mothers in these urban communities who was underserved, but now I’ve found a home for me and my son to come to and feel warm and accepted,” said Hannah on Wednesday, Aug. 31. “He can be himself. He has many eyes looking on him. I’m always in a safe environment. And Nadine, she goes above and beyond for her families. And Holly Robinson is the best. I mean, I can’t say enough; (I) grew up with her. … I’m very much happy about what they are doing for the families.”
East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor agreed with Hanna, saying that he and his wife, Bibi, and their two children joined in the trip to Adventure Aquarium to “represent” for the nonprofit, autism awareness and the city of East Orange.
“We were at the world-famous Camden Aquarium for the Holly Robinson-Peete autism event,” said Taylor on Wednesday, Aug. 31. “I came specifically upon the invitation of Nadine Wright-Arbubakrr and her husband for Nassan’s Place, a great nonprofit organization in the city of East Orange that’s doing phenomenal things to expand awareness about autism, and we have partnered with them as a city to expand upon those efforts, not only in an urban community, but in New Jersey, in particular, where the number of cases and diagnosis of autism is on the rise every year.”
“I’m proud and very happy that the city, through our Recreation Department and Director Osner Charles, are doing some ground-breaking initiatives,” continued the mayor. “One is a swimming program and water safety program we have in East Orange. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the first in the state that we’re going to provide access to recreation and safety initiatives for a large segment of our community.”
Charles said that the swimming program is just the beginning.
“This journey that I have been on since I started this effort has taken me in so many different directions; the best part of my journey is the families that I meet along the way,” said Charles.
“Nassan’s Place had a phenomenal summer,” continued Charles. “We were able to offer a six-week Saturday inclusion enrichment program for children with autism and their siblings and peers; and we were also able to offer a four-week basketball inclusion program, in partnership with East Side High School in Newark, where my stepson, NBA Miami Heat player Hassan Whiteside, attended high school. We partnered with Panasonic and the city of East Orange to bring a sensory-friendly photography workshop to our families; we just gave away almost 200 backpacks filled with school supplies to children and families in underserved areas; and we have our first annual Autism Awareness Awards Banquet coming up in September.”
For more information about Nassan’s Place, visit www.nassansplace.org.