Kim Piro originally started the Jamie Fund over seven years ago. In what was somewhat of a happy accident, she started an organization that would come to be a staple in the Mansfield school system.
When her daughter Jamie was first diagnosed, Piro was already teaching and explaining the condition to her older daughter.
“When she was in kindergarten, my husband would go in and volunteer in her class,” Piro said. “It was an integrated class with typical kids, and I could see that the typical kids just had no idea what it was that she had and why she was different, so I decided that I would try and teach them.”
Piro said that she decided to bring in a children’s book that she had from helping her older daughter understand Jamie’s condition.
“It really made a big difference in the way they saw my daughter,” she said. “They were able to relate to her and communicate with her after teaching them about what it was and what her challenges were.”
After her initial success, Piro was asked by the superintendent to expand the program to more classes. It now runs from preschool through the fifth grade.
“I have a lot volunteers who go in and read books about all kinds of disabilities, not just autism,” she said. “There’s so many kids [with disabilities] that are integrated into the classes at schools, and the typical kids don’t understand what their challenges are. And if they do somewhat understand the challenges, they don’t understand how to relate to them.
“The whole point of integration is to have our children socialize, and if we can’t help the typical kids understand how to socialize with them, it’s not really integration, it’s just another place where kids with special needs feel left out.”
Piro said she started the non profit Jamie Fund to help fund the disability awareness program. The program’s biggest fundraiser is the 5K Road Race and Walk coming up on Saturday, Aug. 27.
The day begins at 9 a.m. with registration and organization, and kicks off with a Fun Run at 9:30 a.m. The race itself starts at 10 a.m., followed by an awards ceremony and a post-race celebration at Casey O’Connors Pub. The race itself runs Lenny’s Loop, starting the Mansfield High School.
Piro said that last year over 400 people attended the event, and over 300 the year before that. She said she thinks this year will have even more.
Piro said that the best advice she can give any parent whose child has autism is to learn as much as you possibly can.
“Basically, you are going to be your child’s advocate for the rest of their life,” she said. “There are doctors who don’t understand it, there are teachers who don’t understand it family members, friends, community leaders, coaches, an innumerable amount of people who don’t understand autism. In my journey I have taught a lot of people a lot of things about it so they can better service my daughter.”
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