The Flying Point Foundation for Autism will participate Friday in Bike to the Beach, a 106-mile, New York City-to-East Quogue ride that is part of a national series of rides that benefit organizations related to autism. The Flying Point Foundation for Autism (FPF4A) runs summer camps for children with autism from ages 6 to 21, along with a special sibling support day for brothers and sisters of children with autism, and other programs. Ms. Covell, the organization’s founder, explains why she and her team are taking part and why it’s important.
What is the goal of the ride?
Bike to the Beach raises money for autism. We are partnering with them. The overarching goal is to raise money organizations that help individuals affected by autism and their families. For us, it helps raise awareness about FPF4A. We have fun, raise money and challenge ourselves. One hundred miles! It’s actually 106 miles, to be specific. Our goal is to raise $20,000. It starts on the west side in Tribeca with the Freedom Tower over your shoulder, and ends at Dockers in East Quogue.
What do you see as the need in this region for an organization like FPF4A?
When we started 10 years ago in 2008, it was because there was a real dearth of supported recreational activities for children with autism. My son had been diagnosed a few years before. We wanted to focus on something positive and fill a need. It took two years to raise the money to start the summer camp. Since we started, all those fresh-faced, cute little kids, they’re all teens now, so we’re trying very hard to create a center so we can provide seamless services over a lifespan. That is probably now the number-one need.
To what extent, if any, does your organization work with local schools to identify what children’s needs are and meet those needs?
I think that it’s such a tall order for schools. We work with school districts not directly, but we do have contacts and most of the local districts send our information to them. We do have families from every district. One really fun thing we do is our “Give a Buck for Autism Month” campaign. We ask the families to send in just $1. Thanks to the participating districts from Center Moriches to Springs, we’ve raised a few thousand dollars. Since we’re not a school-related service, it’s a little more difficult to get a school to “sanction,” if you will.
If you’re a parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, what are some of the best places to look for resources for extracurricular programs and support services?
I don’t have a good answer. This is where schools come in. If schools make an effort, and some do, to hand out information about non-school organizations, it would go a long way. I have toyed with the idea of creating an information hub. It’s more about Facebook now and people forget to look on the web.
How important is it for parents of children with autism to know there are organizations out there, like the Flying Point Foundation, that are actively trying to support children and older individuals who are on the spectrum?
Autism is a lonely world. It is very isolating, especially for families who have a child with significant needs. Until you’ve lived it, it’s hard to know what it’s like. Even if the challenges are less obvious. Knowing that places like FPF4A exist is good because then you’ve got empathy and role models in a great environment.
How can people best help FPF4A?
Spread the word. There are very few people now who don’t have some way that autism affects them. Be a friend to anyone you know who has some challenges, and of course donations don’t hurt because they help keep our valuable programs going.
Bike to the Beach is Friday, June 8. The Foundation’s team fundraising page for Bike to the Beach can be found at my.biketothebeach.org/teampage.asp?fundid=5352. For more information on FPF4A and its programs, visit it online at fpf4autism.org.