For the past 28 years, Lynnfield resident, and father of an autistic child, Tony Gesamondo, has helped families and organizations deal with raising awareness and funds for autistic kids. Tony details his and his families fund, simply titled, The Fund for Autistic Children (thefundforautisticchildren.org), why he created it, all it does, and his thoughts on raising a child with autism.
"My father said, 'why don't we start something where we can raise some money.' So, in 1982, we started with a road race every year and the money started to add up and the need was getting larger, and there were more and more organizations looking for help."
From these humble beginnings, just looking to help out with the continual struggle that is raising awareness and needs for autistic children, of which, his 30 year-old son, John suffers, Tony Gesamondo and his family started The Fund for Autistic Children, a group dedicated to supporting other autistic organizations throughout the Lynnfield community and beyond.
Volunteers Help Drive Organization
"We continued to hold fund raising events, sock hops, races, things like that. We had a comedy event last month, and just recently we had a bus trip down to New York for holiday sites and shopping," mentioned Gesamondo. "We are 100 percent volunteer. We have no paid employees, we don't use any agencies, we do everything ourselves […] Some people have come and gone as we move along but we continue to have people volunteer, we have a board set up and we continue to help out over the years."
When asked about raising his autistic son, John, who was the prime reason Gesamondo got involved, which he believes 90% of autistic voluntarism comes from, knowing or being related to someone afflicted by the disease, Gesamondo had some wise words to relate.
Many Questions, Few Answers
"When your child is diagnosed with something that nobody really understands, you have more quacks than Donald Duck coming at you with answers. We had a doctor that even recommended holding him upside down when he was young so the blood rushed to his head to stimulate brain activity […] Feed him this, don't feed him that, give him that pill, don't give him that, a lot of people, myself included, we're looking for something; there has to be some kind of answer to what's wrong with my child."
"And Americans can be kind of spoiled, we are used to get instant gratification, an instant answer. Early on, we explored a couple of possibilities with therapy, and they can help with certain individuals, but my best advice is, most parents go running from one doctor to another, and there may be some truth to what they have to tell you, but I don't think there is one universal truth to autism.
Every individual, there are very large difference to how they behave and learn. So what you have to do is get them into a program or routine, something that they are comfortable with from day to day. After the child has settled into something regular he's comfortable with, then you can start to look at different trials and clinics and all that."
Establishing A Baseline
This is Gesamondo's idea of establishing a "baseline," in John's case, working through the May Institute in Chatman, Mass. Gesamondo said about his son's progress over the years, "John's gone further than any of us thought he would and continues to surprise us."
This "baseline" is one of the prime reasons that John and his family are doing so well today as John was able to overcome such problems as violent behavior and communication struggles. John now lives out of a group home in Boxford run by the May Institute during the week, and is back with his family in Lynnfield on weekends. Gesamondo looks at his son's journey as a success against this confusing disorder called autism.
For more information on The Fund for Autistic Children, including upcoming events and what you can do to volunteer, head over to their website at www.thefundforautisticchildren.org.
Tony also asks that you call this number to speak with him or another volunteer from the fund if you are an individual or organization serious about getting involved with their program. 978-363-2629.