• Six teachers received IPads and classroom aids from Families Advocating Autism Now. (Left to right) Shayne Sines of McKinleyville Elementary School; Jennifer Fowler of Eureka High School; Sarah Cory of Glen Paul School; Lacey Johnson of Washington Elementary School; Berit Locatelli of Freshwater Elementary School; and Laurel Stokes of Stanwood Murphy Elementary School in Scotia - Mary Bullwinkel — The Humboldt Beacon

  • The 8th Annual Families Advocating Autism Now (FAAN) Wine Tasting fundraiser was held at Rosina Vineyards in Redcrest. Pictured is Rosina Vineyards owner Ed Lewis at the event. - Mary Bullwinkel — The Humboldt Beacon

  • Emily Lewis (left) and Fatima Naylor are two of the founding members of Families Advocating Autism Now (FAAN), a group that was established in Humboldt County in the summer of 2009. - Mary Bullwinkel — The Humboldt Beacon

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Six teachers were presented with iPads and other educational items this past weekend to help teach children with special needs in their classrooms by Families Advocating Autism Now (FAAN). The presentation was made at the 8th annual FAAN Wine Tasting event held at Rosina Vineyards in Redcrest.

Under bright, sunny skies several hundred people gathered to support a cause that was formed locally in the summer of 2009.

“We started our crusade slowly,” said Fatima Naylor, one of the founding members and current President of the FAAN Board of Directors. “Our commonality was that we each had a child with autism and we wanted to create more opportunities in Humboldt County. We never in a million years could’ve thought that we would have made such a profound difference like we have in our small community.”

She said that 94 percent of the funds raised at events like the one last Sunday goes to direct local services. Money raised not only provides educational aids and assistance for teachers, but it also pays for sensory movie screenings, water therapy classes, and equine therapy. These are all events aimed specifically at children with autism and their families.

The diagnosis of autism often presents unique safety risks, including wandering behaviors similarly seen in seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Since children with autism typically wander to “safe” settings such as water, FAAN has partnered locally with Vector Aquatic Center to provide individualized water therapy to individuals with autism on the North Coast.

In a presentation to those gathered at the fundraiser Naylor said, “People ask me all the time what it is like to have children with special needs.” And she added, “For those who don’t realize, special needs parents are a unique blend of tenacity, resourcefulness, and seemingly endless energy. As primary advocates for our kids, we have no choice.”

Of parents with special needs children she said, “We are filled with a love we never could have predicted. We are filled with fears we never could have imagined. We are, quite simply, at capacity every day.

“Our children aren’t lucky to have us,” she added. “We are lucky to have them. Because despite all of these very challenging aspects to having a child with autism, none of us will walk away from this life without having grown — merely from having loved them.”

The event, which raised more than $46,000, included a raffle and silent and live auctions, as well as appetizers and wine and beer from local producers. A special thanks was mentioned for both Ed and Rosina Lewis, owner of Rosina Vineyards, and Rex Bohn, auctioneer and oyster cooker, for their roles in helping the success of this year and previous years fundraisers.

Sponsors of the event included Eureka Payments, Mercer-Fraser Company, Providence St. Joseph Health, News Channel 3, McCrea Motors, George Petersen Insurance, Coast central Credit Union, Redwood Capital Bank, Coldwell Banker Cutten Realty, Bear River Casino and Hotel, RE/MAX – Humboldt Realty, Glen & Marie Liscom, Dinsmore Store, Manhard Consulting, Picky Picky Picky, Forbes and Associates, Redwood Coast Fuels, Owens & Ross, Attorneys at Law, Trumpet Behavioral Health – Humboldt, and Pacific Gas & Electric.

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