By Kevin Deutsch
“We are so appreciative,” said Nicole Javier, office manager for Abi’s Place. “They reached out to the community and were able to do this for our kids. It’s wonderful.”
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 87, which includes the city’s police union and its charitable foundation, raised the money during their now-annual autism fundraiser, meant to support the local autistic community, said FOP Lodge 87 President Glenn Matonak.
To collect the funds, lodge members sold multi-color autism awareness patches, as well as lapel pins to police and community members. Uniformed officers also wore them on the job during April, which is National Autism Awareness Month.
“We wanted to help give back…to help them continue the great work they do,” Matonak said of Abi’s Place.
Coral Springs Police have been a big help in other ways, too, by delivering toys chosen by Abi’s Place staffers each year, brightening Christmas for dozens of students.
The school’s finances these days are solid, Javier said, but that wasn’t always the case.
Just two years ago, Abi’s Place administrators feared the school would be forced to close its doors due to low enrollment and budget cuts.
“We were afraid we would have to shut the school down, but our new board members and so many wonderful parents rallied and said, ‘we can’t possibly shut down, we need this place for our kids,’ and they were able to fundraise and keep it in the open.”
The school is currently transitioning to a new name — Lion Star Academy – but doing the same work for kids in need of specialized care.
“We’ve grown internally,” Javier added. “We’ve gotten bigger. We’ve gotten stronger.”
Among other specialties, teachers and therapists at the schools teach disabled children to walk, teach children who can’t talk to express themselves, and develop job and social skills in young adults with disabilities.
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