ORANGE, NJ — The Nassan’s Place autism awareness and family support organization hosted its third annual Holiday Celebration at Orange Elks Lodge 135 on Main Street on Sunday, Dec. 13.
“This is the third time that we’re having it and our second time having it at the Elks Lodge,” Nassan’s Place President Nadine Wright-Arbubakrr said Sunday, Dec. 13.
Oral Vernon, who attended the party with his son, Oral O’Shea Vernon, 7, who is autistic, and his daughter, Sade, 11, said he was thankful for the nonprofit group’s event.
“It’s nice to see all these people that share the same thing that I share. The best part about it is knowing I’m not the only one in this boat. Everybody is going through the same thing; some people more difficult than others, but hey we’re all in this together,” Vernon said.
Sade said she came out with her father to support her brother and, as she’s four years older than he is, she doesn’t mind being the “big sister.”
“I like being the big sister because I get to protect him,” she said at the event. “He’s autistic and some people don’t know that and they get a little rough and stuff. It was good to be at this party, because I know that we were with people that understand what I go through.”
Vernon said it was also good to be at the party because it gave his son a chance to get more of the kind of care and support that he needs. He said he’s thankful Wright-Arbubakrr is providing a service his son and others local families in similar situations.
“To be honest, we all should join together, because it’s a fight,” Vernon said. “Lately, I realize it’s crazy that these kids are denied so much and they need so much. And it’s a shame. It really makes me angry that these kids need so much and they’re not getting it. For somebody who works 14 hours, like me, to see my kids being denied and also to see half of my check being taken away from me and he’s not getting what he needs,” angers him, said Vernon.
Wright-Arbubakrr said she understands how Vernon feels, and that part of the reason she founded Nassan’s Place after her son was diagnosed with autism in 2012 was to address the lack of services for him and others in the urban, mostly minority areas of Essex County in particular, and North Jersey in general.
Three years later, Wright-Arbubakrr said she was happy to be doing more for her son, Nassan, and other autistic children and their families such as the Vernons.
“This is our third annual Holiday Celebration, in conjunction with the Orange Elks Lodge, our community partner, and we are greatly appreciative for all of their support,” Wright-Arbubakrr said. “We hosted quite a few people today, so I’m very happy that these families had a great time and it’s all about bringing them together because, unfortunately, so many of them feel like they’re alone. But when Nassan’s Place has an event, it’s an event for families to feel comfortable in their surroundings.”
Wright-Arbubakrr said, as great as the Holiday Celebration was, it could have been even bigger; however, that will only happen once Nassan’s Place finds a facility it can call “home.”
“Our biggest goal right now is to find a location and space, so we can offer the children and families we serve the necessary services they need in order for their children to progress,” Wright-Arbubakrr said. “Unfortunately, in urban inner cities, the lack of resources that are even affordable to these families are not even accessible. So, through Nassan’s Place, we’re trying to bring affordable and accessible programs and also trying to educate our community, because New Jersey currently has the highest rate of autism in the country and, in urban inner cities, they have the least amount of responsibility.”
Susan Rinehart, the special children’s chairperson for Orange Elks Lodge 135, said the lodge tries to fill this responsibility gap in the city and does so for all types of children.
“It’s part of our mission; it’s what the Elks are all about,” Rinehart said on Sunday, Dec. 13. “This is our second annual Christmas party on behalf of challenged children in our local neighborhoods. We’ve had food and drink and merriment, face painting, Lego stations and we supplied a gift to each child. We have the means to be able to support Nassan’s Place, which does a fabulous job with all the challenged children in our local neighborhood, and the Elks mission is on behalf of challenged children, so it’s a perfect partnership.”
To learn more about Nassan’s Place and autism awareness, visit www.nassansplace.org.