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November 16, 2010

High school juniors fundraise for autism charity



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While some Mahopac High School seniors find themselves rushing to finish their required 120 hours of community service at the last minute, Taylor Maher and Nicole Maloney already know that won't be a problem for them.

The two 16-year-olds, both juniors, have already completed their hours.

Despite this, both feel passionate about working to help others, and are going above and beyond the school's requirements to organize "Dine & Dance for the Cure," a dinner dance to benefit Autism Speaks. The dinner dance will take place at 7 P.M. Friday, Nov. 19, at Sinapi's Ceola Manor in Jefferson Valley. Tickets are $50 per person.

Both teenagers love children and wanted to do something to help others. When they learned that more children are diagnosed with autism than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined, they knew instantly what their chosen charity would be.

"As we've gone out and met people, we've realized how many people this horrible disease affects," Maloney said. Though autism spectrum disorders can be difficult to diagnose, it is estimated that one in every 110 children has one. This statistic jumps to one in every 70 for boys, who are at greater risk for autism.

"Everyone we talk to knows someone [who faces the disorder]," Maher added.

Autism Speaks is the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization. Founded in 2005, it is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism, increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

The idea for Dine & Dance for the Cure came to the teens in August. Maher works at a catering hall, and after seeing multiple dinner dances for different causes, she realized how many people enjoy the events and helping to raise money for charity. Since then, they have been organizing the event and reaching out to the community for help. Ceola Manor will donate all the evening's profits to Autism Speaks, and Pozzitive Productions has offered to DJ the event for free. An auction will be held at the event, and proceeds from that will also be donated.

Maher and Maloney have also been on the ground each day, trying to raise awareness of the event and get commitments from attendees. They have been hanging posters and talking to people they meet.

"It's been a lot of hard work. We've put in a lot of work this past month, and it's been difficult to get commitments from people," Maloney admitted. Still, she's confident the event will be a success.

"It's been rewarding already. Meeting so many wonderful people and talking to them about their experience with autism has been so rewarding. We're looking forward to seeing them at the event."

DINE & DANCE FOR THE CURE

• 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19

• Sinapi's Ceola Manor in Jefferson Valley

• $50 each (10 percent discount for groups of eight or more)

• To RSVP, contact ntmalomaher@aol.com or call 845-803-467

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