ASTORIA – On World Autism Awareness Day, Sunday, April 2, the Carnival of Love Foundation (COLF) participated 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 installed 5 custom, puzzle-piece skylines that will illuminate 30th Avenue in Greek-centric Astoria, in 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 unveiled what will be an annual lighting installation at their “Light It Up Blue” event at Ovelia, in Astoria. The event was complimentary and open to all who support the effort to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism.
Co-founder/Executive Director Dennisia Slabakis spoke with The National Herald about the event and about COLF noting that the mission of the organization is to bring community, love, and joy to the lives of children and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and special needs in the local Queens community.
Youla Efthimiou, Parent Outreach Director for COLF, advocate and parent of a child with autism also spoke with TNH. She said, it’s important to let parents and families know they are not alone. Efthimiou pointed out that having a child with autism, it is easy for Greek families especially to feel alone and become isolated and that early on, she herself felt isolated.
It’s difficult for many people to understand that because you can’t see a developmental delay in a child as obviously as you would see a missing limb, it’s almost as if it doesn’t exist, so reaching out, increasing awareness and understanding, and overcoming the stigma of having a child with a disability by sharing and empowering parents to empower themselves through resources and support, creates a sense of community. 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.
It is hard for Greeks to accept, Efthimiou noted, and there is a tendency to become isolated, but the word is getting out in the community, and though autism tests all relationships, COLF offers programs and workshops that are making a tremendous difference in many people’s lives. Efthimiou mentioned taking groups bowling and apple-picking, and setting up playdates that help to connect families and children with ASD, and though COLF is doing its best, more still needs to be done and raising awareness by teaming up with Autism Speaks to light up 30th Avenue on Sunday is just part of the solution. “Hopefully, next year we’ll have Ditmars and Broadway lit up, too, for World Autism Awareness Day,” Efthimiou said.
Slabakis thanked all those present for attending the event and led everyone outside for the lighting ceremony. A family affected by ASD was stationed at each of the five puzzle pieces along 30th Avenue, to flip the switch for the lighting ceremony which took place when the sky darkened enough so the lights could be seen clearly. A brief countdown was followed by cheers and photographs of the blue lit puzzle pieces decorating the avenue.
Among the world landmarks lit in blue on Sunday were the National Theatre of Piraeus, Hadrian’s Arch in Athens, the City Hall of Ioannina, and the Zosimaia Historic Library in Ioannina, the Empire State Building, the White House, Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando, Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Niagara Falls, the Tasmanian Parliament House and Town Hall in Australia, CN Tower in Canada, and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus building in Mumbai, India.
The Carnival of Love Foundation team includes Dennisia Slabakis- President, Anastasia Theofanis- Vice President, Nikki Krokos- Treasurer, Youla Efthimiou- Parent Outreach Director, and Maria Evangelou- Leader of the Special Needs Liturgy. More information about COLF is available online at www.carnivaloflove.org.
One of the five blue puzzle pieces lit on 30th Avenue in Astoria for World Autism Awareness Day. Photo by Eleni Sakellis
ATHENS - A regulation in an omnibus bill will allow repatriated Greeks from Albania and the former Soviet Union to receive full national pensions, Labor and Social Protection Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said during a discussion in Greek Parliament on Tuesday.
PHILADELPHIA – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley announced that the Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece will be participating in the Philadelphia Greek Independence Day Parade on March 20.
WASHINGTON — Nearly 50 defense leaders from around the world met Monday and agreed to send more advanced weapons to Ukraine, including a Harpoon launcher and missiles to protect its coast, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters.
Sign up for a subscription
Want to save this article? Get a subscription to access this feature and more!
Have an idea for a story, or know of an event we should cover? We want to hear about it!
The National Herald is the paper of record of the Greek Diaspora community. Through independent journalism, we bring news to generations of Greek-Americans, with stories on the individual, community and international level. Visit and support our 106 year-old sister publication Εθνικός Κήρυξ.
You’re reading 1 of 3 free articles this month. Get unlimited access to The National Herald. or Log In