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Politics

Astoria Turns Blue for Autism Awareness Month 

NEW YORK – The Carnival of Love Foundation (COLF) is turning Astoria blue in celebration of Autism Awareness Month. The Foundation, whose mission is to bring community, love, and joy to the lives of children and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and special needs in their local Queens community, is participating in Autism Speaks’ Light It Up Blue campaign whereby thousands of iconic landmarks, buildings, homes, and communities around the globe ‘light up blue’ in support of people living with autism.

COLF has installed 5 custom, puzzle-piece skylines that will illuminate 30th Avenue in Greek-centric Astoria, blue from April 1-30. The puzzle piece is the universal symbol for autism, and the blue represents support of the Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue campaign. COLF will unveil what will be an annual lighting installation at their “Light It Up Blue” event on World Autism Awareness Day on Sunday, April 2, at 6 PM at Ovelia, 34-01 30th Ave, in Astoria. The event is complimentary and open to all who want to support the effort to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism.

ASD is a developmental disability that is characterized by significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges; impacted individuals may not appear different in any way from other people, however, they may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in completely different ways. The abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted – even savants – to severely challenged. According to a 2014 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 US children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls), have autism spectrum disorder; and on a global scale, it’s roughly 1% of the population.

Alarmed by these statistics, and through their own field research conducted by a volunteer team of child psychologists, Medicaid specialists and speech pathologists, COLF discovered that there is a serious need for resources and support within in the Queens special needs community, and especially within the resident Hellenic population. There is a general lack of understanding, acceptance, and integration within the Greek community as a whole, including a lack of programs and support services specific to the culture, and in the Greek language. Run by a team of Greek-Americans, COLF chose to address those needs and make a lasting impact in the community. Carnival of Love is transforming the current conversation from stigma, taboo, and disconnection, to community, love, and joy! 

The Foundation’s long-term vision is to open the Carnival of Love Healing Arts Center in the Astoria/Long Island City area to fulfill the needs of the children and families all in one place. The Center programming will include educational workshops on topics from finances and trusts, to nutrition and healing, support groups for siblings and individual parents, one-on-one resource sessions, alternative therapies such as art, music and sensory integration, and recreational activities for the whole family, among many other services.

COLF currently offers monthly educational workshops and parent support groups at the Kefalos Society of America, 20-41 Steinway Street in Astoria, and is in partnership with the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Astoria, supporting a Special Needs Divine Liturgy and recreational program held on the first Saturday of every month at St. Catherine and St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 22-30 33rd Street in Astoria.

On Friday, June 2 at 8 PM, COLF will present their annual benefit at Melrose Ballroom, 36-08 33rd Street in Long Island City. The event, aptly named 6th Sense, alludes to the fact that children with ASD experience life through enhanced sensory perception. The Carnival-esque event will feature activities that play on all 6 senses: Sight, Taste, Smell, Touch, Hearing and Extrasensory Perception (ESP). For instance, the “Taste” section will feature local restaurants offering “Love Bites” – delectable samples of food from their menus, and the “Smell” section will offer aromatherapy samples, among many other surprises. Proceeds from the events will directly fund the current and future Center programming.

About the Carnival of Love Foundation

The Carnival of Love Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity dedicated to bringing community, love, and joy to families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder and other special needs, through access to alternative therapies, educational resources, support groups, recreational activities, and unique healing experiences. Since 2008, COLF has donated over $300,000 to a myriad of causes and services that have enhanced the quality of life and emotional well-being of children and families in need. NYC Tax ID# 26-2095977. For more information or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Dennisia Slabakis via email: info@carnivaloflove.org.

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