Records were shattered this pastHol Hamoed Sukkot, as the fourth annual Reach for the Stars carnival exceeded all three previous years’ totals in attendance and fundraising. Over one thousand community families and supporters came
out to enjoy this festive event, filling
an entire residential block in Brooklyn for a day of fun and excitement.

Reach for the Stars is a private school in Brooklyn serving individuals with autism, a neurological disorder which hampers the patient’s ability to process information entering the brain from the five senses, resulting in difficulty communicating and socializing. Modern psychology has developed proven methods to overcome these obstacles through proper intense training, and the earlier the training begins, the more effective it is in helping the patient. For this reason, Reach for the Stars begins accepting students already at the age of just two years and nine months, so that can they can begin their training as early as possible, thus maximizing the prospects of its success. The school’s outstanding, professional staff provides students with one-on-one
therapy, and maintains very small classes – no more thanfive students per class – staffed by 6-7 teachers, as well as a physical therapist and occupational therapist. Every staff member is a professionally-trained teacher; the school does not hire any aids or paras.

Reach for the Stars’ students graduate fromthe school only once they no longer need intenseone-on-one therapy, and are capable of thriving in a different educational framework.

The September weather was perfect for this day of cotton candy and festive family fun. The exciting rides included an electric kiddy swing, a half- moon pirate ship, moon bounces, and a giant slide. Kids were also able to enjoy a rock-climbing center, an obstacle course, and perhaps best of all, pony rides! In addition, they had the opportunity to try their hands at classic carnival games such as knocking tin cans down with a hackie sack and tossing rings on bottle tops, and to earn tickets redeemable for fun prizes like slime, bouncy balls, dolls, and more.

The carnival not only raised
much-needed funds for a vitally important community institution, but also brought our community’s children together to enjoy a fun day with their families. Various children from special needs schools in the area, such as Imagine Academy, were invited to join in the fun for free, and theirfamilies were offered a special discounted price for tickets and wristbands.

“My students really enjoyed the carnival, it was really great,” said Jay Gindi, Applied Behavior Analysis Teacher at Reach for The Stars. “By inviting so many community special needs children to join in the fun together with everyone, it raised a good amount of awareness for autism as well as this great school.

Gindi emphasized the huge role played by the event’s devoted volunteers, who needed to overcome the less-than-cooperativeweather.

“I’d also like to point out the dedication of our amazing volunteers. It had rained the night before the carnival, so they had to wake up at 6:30 in the morning, come out and set up heavy things to make this beautiful day happen. They are truly all stars and they came together to make the student’s day great and raise money for this worthy cause.”

The event featured a large barbeque which families could enjoy in a sukkah, with meat graciously sponsored by Jerusalem Glatt. Elliot and Susan Cohen and Aaron and Felicia Cohen sponsored the carnival along with many other community businesses and families.

“The carnival was an overwhelming success,” enthused Barbara Matalon, General Director of Reach for The Stars. “We hosted well over a thousand kids and families. There was a huge number of volunteers working each booth and helping out; it was such a large community undertaking. The students loved it, and for us, the teachers and the families, it was so nice to see them enjoying the day and looking likejust typical children eating popcorn and happily riding all the fun attractions.”

Reflecting further on her students’ experience, Matalon continued, “They are not autistic children, they are children with autism, children first, and all children love a good carnival.”