CLARKS SUMMIT- Abington Heights head wrestling coach Chris Calder preaches the importance of the wrestling team bonding together as a ‘family.’
Members of the team followed his lead this past season, raising $375 for Allied Services through their Takedown Autism fundraising initiative.
“I have a nephew with autism, so that’s where the idea started,” Calder said. “We’re just trying to put forth the effort of getting more people involved and getting the awareness out there. I wanted to take my position as wrestling coach and somehow incorporate how we talk about family in wrestling all the time. They’re one, and that’s what we did.
“It was a great start for us,” Calder added. “It’s the first year we’ve done it. Hopefully next year we double or triple the amount we are giving back.”
Allied Services Assistant Vice President-Advancement Jim Brogna stressed the importance of funding for the organization.
“Every dollar that we raise, whether it’s through a community fundraiser, an individual donation, or a corporate donation, we invest back into the program,” Brogna said. “It might be to train therapists for new methodologies and how to work with autistic children. It could be to buy new equipment such as the Snoezelen room. It could be to subsidize a service that a child is not getting covered by insurance. There are myriad of ways. Allied, as a non-profit, takes care of these kids to get the best out of their abilities.”
According to Brogna, the cases and knowledge regarding autism are growing each year.
“The last two years, we’ve learned a lot more about autism,” Brogna said. “Every year, the Center for Disease Control puts out national statistics and the need keeps getting greater every year. Our goal is to continue to create an awareness and raise as much money as possible.”
Brogna praised the wrestling program for their success both on and off the mats.
“The Abington Heights wrestling program has a tradition of not only developing successful athletes, but also giving back to the community,” he said. “They solicited their own money and half the money went to sustain the development of the team and the other half went to our autism program.”
While the amount of money raised was significant, Brogna advised the students-athletes to look at the bigger picture.
“It wasn’t the amount of money that was raised, the dollar amount,” he said.
“Think about the difference you’ve made in somebody’s life by creating an awareness. Just in the Abington community alone, there is a need to help children with autsim.”