Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rotary's initiative gives a boost to autistic kids

If you tell your audience, “I’m going to be talking today about autism,” the response would likely be a series of groans. That’s because the subject has little widespread appeal.

But the number of children afflicted with it has been growing exponentially in recent years. At one time, we folks were aware of very few who suffered it. Now autism is widespread. And kids who have the affliction really deserve our sympathy and, whenever possible, our help.

I will not attempt to define autism. It has many manifestations, and I believe the popular movie “Rain Man” was about an autistic young man. Today we often hear of families who have a member with the affliction.

If you sincerely want to know more about it, I suggest you look it up, either on the Internet by way of Google or in a reference book that defines the subject. You will learn far more than I am able to deliver.

What I would like to do today, however, is tell you about a local organization that is doing something to help. And I am proud of that effort, since that group is the Willoughby Rotary Club, and I am a charter member, going back to 1961.

A year or so ago, Ray Somich, a past president and the man you know best as the guy who runs radio station WELW-AM 1330 in Willoughby, approached the club with the idea that it could be expending some of its resources and energy to join in the battle against autism.

He found some sympathetic ears, although the enthusiasm lacked specifics. But the club’s current president, Ron Boetger (say BET GURR) is a guru in the field of computers and the like. In other words, electronics. And Ron had an idea.

Now, I must plead innocence in this area of communications. Yes, I have a phone that I carry in my pocket, and I have basic (extremely basic) familiarity with a computer. But the fancy stuff is out of my league. I make no pretensions about technology which is over my head.

Ron’s plan was this: Let’s buy as many iPads as we can to assist kids who have autism. They present an invaluable way for them to communicate.

It has been shown, he said, that iPads open the doors to an entirely different world to kids who are utterly unable to communicate. They learn a new sense of life and its many wonders.
My first question to Ron was: “Excuse me, but what is an iPad?”

He explained it so that — I think — I knew what he was talking about. It is like your cell phone, except it is like a Smart Phone, i.e., a flat board with pictures, and like that. That is a miserably poor description of what an iPad is, but I will bet you two things: (1) you already know what an iPad is, and (2) you think I am some kind of a dummy for not knowing.

Right on both counts! Sorry about that. I apologize for not knowing how an iPad works. But since you already know, let’s get on with the story.

Let’s, he proposed to the club, raise $25,000 so we can buy 50 iPads for kids with autism and thereby improve their lives almost beyond measure.

The idea was bounced around a bit, as new concepts usually are, but in the end it got the club’s stamp of approval. We were on our way!

Here is where we stand: We have raised $17,500. We have ordered 25 iPads, and in April will hand them out to four organizations that will be grateful to receive them and put them to good use.

They are: Share A Vision, Willoughby-Eastlake Schools, Deepwood and the Fine Arts Association.

We are moving ahead with the program. There is much more work to be done, and many more dollars to be raised. There is no stopping us now.

I am proud of Rotary International, because it has virtually eradicated polio worldwide. But that is Rotary International. The autism program belongs to Willoughby Rotary. Yes, our own little club.

There is one more extremely important element of our club’s program. That is the work being done by one of our members, Dan Ruminski, who is not only very tall, he is also one of the world’s great storytellers.

Dan tells stories around here all the time to awe-struck audiences delighted to hear his grasp of local history. You may have heard him. An admission fee is charged, and part of the proceeds goes to the Rotary autism project.

There is much more to tell you about Dan, his storytelling, and what he is doing as one of the prime boosters of the autism program. But that will take at least another week.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home