RAA builds support, understanding

6th annual fundraising dinner-auction is April 6

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

RAA builds support, understanding“They say it takes a village to raise a child. I am very proud to see the way ours rallies around those children whose needs are more complicated than most,” said Cherish Rindt, founding member of Ridgecrest Autism Awareness.

For five years, RAA and its supporters have been raising funds and awareness to help children and families with special needs. As organizers geared up for their signature event (details below), the board and its supporters reflected on how far the community has come toward helping, encouraging and understanding those who face daily obstacles in even the most mundane aspects of life.

“It’s hard. Some days it seems impossibly hard,” said Tina Warren, who has been a champion of the RAA movement — and generous contributor — since the beginning.

Because Warren’s daughter, Monica, is raising a son with autism, both have seen up close the challenges that come with it.

These challenges include nervous breakdowns that can be triggered by minute and unavoidable changes in routine — and that leave children, and potentially their parents, frustrated and traumatized.

Before Warren’s grandson, Jessie, was diagnosed, his parents struggled with the feelings of guilt, inadequacy and fear that they were somehow doing something wrong.

“I don’t know if a diagnosis made the challenges any easier, but after watching this little family go from just constant battling and tears every day to finally feeling like they are making progress, and getting support, has made a big difference in their lives,” said Warren.

“I wish that other communities had that same level of support. Monica has since moved, and they don’t have anything like RAA in their new community. We are so very blessed here. We really are.”

While broader movements, such as Autism Speaks, have helped lay the groundwork in articulating the special challenges that come with the diagnosis, RAA has focused its efforts on education and support within our isolated community.

Warren said that activities like the sensory-friendly movie nights benefit not only autistic children, but also the parents and siblings who can relax in a sympathetic environment. “Being able to go and do things without feeling judged is important.

“And together, these families can share in the small things that other people might take for granted — making eye contact, getting hugs or hearing your child say ‘I love you.’”

Warren family members are among those who commit significant time and resources to the annual fundraiser, which will be held Friday, April 6, at the Kerr McGee Center. Doors open at 6 p.m., and festivities include dinner, entertainment and live and silent auctions.

Last year,the Warren family solicited, created or bid on about $7,000 worth of items to help support the cause. The event raised more than $56,000, which facilitated opening a sensory center for families. Other ongoing projects include education and training, family activities and adaptive equipment for local facilities.

Subtle benefits of the movement include creating a landscape that allows these children to be embraced. Warren said that her family experienced one of these touching moments when Jessie was in first grade.

Because Jessie had difficulty in certain situations — like feeling lost or crowded in the midst of his peers — his teacher took special consideration to make him feel comfortable and connected. “Well, these kids didn’t know he was autistic. Even Jessie didn’t know at that point. But the other children in his class started to get jealous of the attention he was getting.”

So the teacher approached Monica and asked permission to share Jessie’s diagnosis as a teachable moment for the rest of the class.

In his absence, the teacher asked the children a series of questions about how they felt at being startled or crowded or overwhelmed by noise. Most indicated that they were uncomfortable in one or more of these conditions.

“The teacher then explained to them, ‘Now imagine, not liking things, what it feels like for Jessie — who can hear noises first and more intensely.’ Then she explained what autism is and how Jessie experiences things. From that day forward, the classroom was totally changed. The other students wanted to help him.

“Jessie still had his bad meltdowns, and I know it affected the other children and made them nervous, but they understood.”

Warren said that her daughter has since found that, without an advocate in her new community, getting her son the right help has been more challenging.

“I want people to know that what we have here is amazing and so very important.”

For more information email cherish@ridgecrestautismawareness.com or call 760-977-3020.

Pictured: Longtime RAA supporters Tina (left)?and Rusty (foreground)?Warren at a previous auction. — News Review file photo

Story First Published: 2018-03-30