AbilityFirst Kicks Off Stroll & Roll At California Endowment

Ability First held a luncheon to kick off the 2018 Stroll & Roll at the California Endowment, on February 23rd. The annual event brings program participants and their families along with many passionate members of the community together for a day of fun, exercise and hope. Last year nearly 2,000 people participated in the event raising more than $920,000, this year the goal is to raise over $1,000,000.

The DTLA luncheon festivities were emceed by actress Jane Kaczmarek, a long-time supporter of AbilityFirst, who shared the history of the organization, which had its roots in the Lawry’s family. She presented awards to top fundraisers and presenting sponsors like Southern California Edison, Skechers, Chargers Los Angeles, Bolton & Company and CBB Bank. Kaczmarek also shared a personal and bittersweet story of her cousin who was born with Down Syndrome at a time when there was very little understanding or advocacy for children with special needs, but eventually, she said, he was taken in by a foster family who had a special needs child of their own and was able to give him a loving home and life.

Actress Lauren Potter, widely known for playing cheerleader “Becky” on Glee, is the Honorary Chair of AbilityFirst for her advocacy and fundraising efforts as well as using her prominence to bring visibility to those with developmental disabilities. “At the end of last year, I filled my love of acting to AbilityFirst when I had the lead role in AbilityFirst’s short film title “HEADSHOT,” Potter said. The film took the bronze prize at the Big Heart Small Film Festival in Pasadena. “I had a blast, not only to participate in this film, the best thing about the film is that it’s not about what you can’t do, it’s about what you can do. And I can’t wait for this year’s Stroll & Roll! Go Team Lauren!”

Luncheon attendees had the pleasure of hearing from members of the families whose lives have been positively impacted by the organization through the many educational, socialization, occupational and family support programs offered at the various centers.

“Since 2013, I have entrusted the two most important people in my life to AbilityFirst. I am the mom of 18-year-old twin boys who have autism and are non-verbal, Justin and Noah. While in the special program they have come a long way, they’ve experienced their first boy-girl dance, they’ve taken the subway for the first time and they’ve gone on field trips. All of this without me that was a very big step for all three of us, ” said Angie Barajas, employee of Suburu of Glendale, a major Stroll and Roll sponsor. “There is a proverb that all parents know ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ but this is true ten fold for a special needs parent.”

The event will be held at the Los Angeles State Historic Park on Sunday, April 8, 2018. For more information, go the Effie Magazine Events Calendar or visit www.strollandroll.org.

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