Bear resident starts JHS Legacy Group, a non-profit organization to provide funding for parents of autistic children.
As a single mother of an autistic child, Valerie Wells of Bear knows the financial strain and time constraints parents of autistic children face, and she’s on a mission to help others in her situation.
Wells recently launched JHS Legacy Group, a non-profit organization to provide services to parents like her.
Her son Jordon, 10, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at 4-years-old. JHS Legacy Group was named in memory of her late father, James H. Snipes Sr.
“The purpose is to assist families in Delaware who are affected by autism,” Valerie said. “We want to provide them with financial assistance so they can participate in activities, attend conferences and lectures, and basically anything they may need to do.
“I’ve always been interested in helping people,” she said. “I know how difficult it is to get Jordon in different things and not be able to do it on my own.”
She said she plans to work with other non-profit groups, such as the Autism Society of Delaware and Variety the Children’s Charity, to provide services that aren’t already available.
Valerie said there are various out-of-state seminars parents can attend to learn about new treatments, diets and other ways to help their autistic child, but many people don’t have the funding.
She said some conferences focus on alternative treatments that are food-based and teach parents about how certain diets can affect their autistic child’s behavior.
In Jordon’s case, wheat and gluten increases his behavior and make it harder for him to concentrate. Seminars can help parents learn the appropriate foods to feed autistic children like him.
“There was a conference in Florida I wanted to attend, but I couldn’t,” she said. “That’s what prompted me to think about if there are resources out there to provide financial assistance, and there wasn’t anything. One goal is to provide funding upfront so if you would have money to pay for a conference and airfare.”
Valerie said JHS can also fund respite care, which is like babysitting but with staff trained by the Delaware Autism Program.
“If a parent needs to go out or wants to take a day off, someone would come in and watch the child for them and we can help fund that,” she said.
Valerie said another goal is to provide funding for equipment that isn’t considered medical, but is needed.
“Some children with autism are wanderers or runners, and there are times when parents need help with a security system or installing a fence,” she said. “The Autism Society of Delaware does not provide fencing, and Variety assists with medical equipment. This is where JHS can fit in, for those unique situations.”
Valerie said JHS is going to be more for funding rather than a referral source, but she does refer people to non-profits that can better meet their needs if she can’t.
She said JHS Legacy Group will assist those in need through grants, which she will start awarding in 2009.
For now, she’s focused on raising money.
“We’re very, very new,” Valerie said.
Valerie said the first fundraiser for JHS started this week at the Jake’s Hamburgers Chadds Ford, Pa., location, where the chain’s Burger Eating Contest kicked off. JHS Legacy Group donation boxes will be at each Jake’s Hamburgers location during the contest and at the grand finale at Frawley Stadium on Friday, July 25.
She said she organized the second fundraising effort with the help of the First State Chapter of the Harley Owners Group. The Autism Puzzle Run will start at Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson in New Castle and end at Brandywine Springs Park on Saturday, Sept. 20.
“I wanted to do something different because we’re not in competition with other organizations,” Valerie said. “It will be a 50-mile ride through Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania and will end with a barbeque at Brandywine Springs Park.”
She said there will be a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle and children’s activities including moon bounces, face painting, balloon making and spin art. Club Phred classic rock group and Blue Cat Blues will provide the entertainment. Donations for the silent auction are currently being accepted.
Activities in the park will be free for registered riders. Those who don’t ride are welcome to join the festivities for $10 and $5 for children ages 7 to 12. Children 6 and younger eat and play for free with a paying adult.
Registration will be $15 per person before Friday, Sept. 12, and $20 per person from Sept. 13 until the day of the event.
“I’m hoping to get 250 riders out,” Valerie said. “I was told to give them a good ride and food. I might have to get a little side car to join the ride.”
She said once she has funding, she’ll start accepting applications for grants, which will be reviewed by a four-member grant committee. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
“The goal is to assist as many people as we can,” Valerie said.
She said the JHS Legacy Group has applied for its 501(c)3 designation, which is pending.
Valerie said the JHS Legacy Group Web site, www.jhslegacygroup.com, should be up within a week. Donations can be submitted to JHS Legacy Group, Inc., P.O. Box 9543, Newark DE 19714 or online at www.jhslegacy group.org . Interested volunteers can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (302) 595-2718.