May 16, 2013

Eighth Women Helping Women event stocks Aspire’s shelves with toys, games, crafts

Guests donated a towering collection of toys, games and art supplies to Aspire, a not for profit serving individuals with disabilities and their families. The donations--from Mr. Potato Head to Twister to sidewalk chalk--will help Aspire moms help their children develop critical motor and social skills.


Kathy Ruffulo has spoken to all kinds of audiences about the good things happening at Aspire, but her recent experience at the Women Helping Women Spring Mix-and-Mingle was especially refreshing.

Hosted twice a year by the women attorneys of Chuhak & Tecson, P.C., WHW is a networking group for women business leaders and entrepreneurs to mingle, build business and support a not for profit organization benefiting women, or women and their children, all at the same event. On April 25, the guest of honor was Aspire, which serves children and adults with developmental delays and disabilities.

“I think the peace that I walked away with at the end of the evening came from being with all these amazing women and feeling like they really connected with our mission,” said Ruffulo, vice president of children’s services at Aspire. “I’ve been to a lot of these kinds of events, but this one had a whole different feel. There was just a really nice spirit in the room of people who cared.”

Ruffulo also walked away with toys and games donated by guests to help Aspire moms help their children. Some will be used at the office during therapy appointments, but many will be sent home with families to use in parent-child play therapy all week long.

Guests donated more than 500 items, including 24 puzzles, 40 games, 10 boxes of Legos, and enough art and craft supplies to keep lots of little hands busy for quite a while.

“There’s a kid in every one of us,” Ruffulo said, “and there were three of us going through the toys afterward and just giggling.”

Ruffulo is looking forward to buying even more toys with the $100 Amazon gift card and over $400 in cash the organization received as well.

Women Helping Women has been hosting biannual mixers since 2009, and the momentum builds with every event. With almost 150 women enjoying wine, hors d’oeuvres and camaraderie, the April 25 event was the largest to date.

“I thought it was a fabulous event and our best ever,” said Loretto Kennedy, principal at Chuhak & Tecson. “The buzz in the room and the connections and the conversation were constantly invigorating and interesting.

“The really unique thing about Women Helping Women is that whether it’s your first time there or you’ve come to every event, it’s a very welcoming and gracious group,” Kennedy said. “People are really looking to talk to each other, recognizing that meeting people in many different industries helps you build a broad set of contacts.

“I heard nothing but rave reviews from the women who attended.”

Kennedy said WHW committee members are frequently complimented on the interesting community organizations they select for mix-and-mingles. She knows of at least two guests who pursued further involvement with Aspire after the April event.

“We work hard to identify and partner with organizations that will benefit from the exposure to a roomful of powerful and influential women,” she said, “and also benefit in whatever way our guests support them with donations.”

Chuhak & Tecson Principal Stacey Bromberg conducted welcome remarks at the event and introduced Ruffulo, who spoke about the mothers of children with disabilities.

“We work with over 500 children a year, and that means 500 mothers,” Ruffulo said. “When parents make that first phone call and tell us their story for the first time—‘my baby has Down syndrome’ or ‘my child is behind in school’ or ‘my baby was born premature’—the underlying factor is that they are all experiencing fear and confusion.

“How we work with families,” she said, “especially moms, is to help them understand not only their child’s disability but also their child’s strengths and to give them hope, because we’re about reaching dreams.”

Donielle Burton, an Aspire mom, told her own story after Ruffulo spoke. Burton talked about how she and her husband had shared a dream for their son that he would be able to go to school with his typically developing peers.

“That was the hope she got at Aspire,” Ruffulo said, “and her child is now in a full-day program at a public school.”

Kennedy has a nephew who is autistic, “so these remarks hit particularly close to home,” she said. “Our family provides a lot of love and compassion for him.

“Aspire provides that same kind of support for its clients as if they were family, too,” Kennedy said. “It’s a wonderful example for all of us.”