A NEW WAVE OF HOPE – WAVES OF CHANGES FOR AUTISM
One Vaughan charity is making autism interventions more accessible with the help of an incredible team. Ellen Contardi is the chair of the board of Waves of Changes for Autism, a non-profit organization that distributes assistance to families in need.
There are times in life when we are drawn to a particular vocation, not because we are personally touched by a cause or crisis, but because a force greater than us knew we’d be up for the challenge. As fate would have it, Ellen Contardi was called to a career of service in her community. The Vaughan mother of two is the chair of the board of Waves of Changes for Autism, a charitable organization that raises and distributes financial support to families raising children with autism. Families who receive the donations are able to allocate them to the often costly services, therapies and interventions that their children with autism so desperately need.
When Contardi was called upon to chair the organization with friend, fellow Vaughan mom and co-chair Loredana Presutto, she jumped at the opportunity. “We live in an incredible community, one that has been so good to my family,” says Contardi. “I thought that this was just one small way I could give back.” As chair, Contardi helped organize the charity’s first two extremely successful gala fundraisers, with total donations exceeding $300,000. Her eyes beam with excitement as she shares the numbers. “This community is so generous, and they feel the desire to help however they can.”
Contardi admits she isn’t an expert on the clinical side of autism, but what she does know is that the financial support she and her team are working so hard to provide is going a long way for families in need. “Seeing these families who have so many challenges makes me realize how fortunate I am to not have been personally affected by these struggles. I genuinely sympathize with them and want to do everything I can to help.”
Last year, Waves of Changes was able to offer financial assistance to 32 families in Vaughan. Contardi says the numbers won’t stop there, as the organization hopes to be able to help more each year. “By helping families directly we feel like we can get children access to services much more efficiently,” she says.
As one of the people spearheading the organization, it’s Contardi’s job to ensure that Waves of Changes’ impact is far-reaching, by funding as wide a variety of programs as possible. “Every child has different needs; a therapy or intervention that may work for one may not be suited for another,” says Contardi. “So we try to finance as many different programs as we can for these children.”
“Waves of Changes for Autism provided the opportunity for our son [to experience a] unique therapy which directly resulted in our son’s improvement in speech and motor development,” says Jennie De Medicis. Frank and Jennie De Medicis share that their son’s development has continued since the initial support, and the family is profoundly grateful for Waves of Changes.
It’s this level of genuine compassion and care for what she does that makes Contardi a local hero, but she hesitates to take any credit at all. “We have a team of about 22 amazing individuals, and everybody comes to the table with so many different strengths,” says Contardi. “They help [Loredana and I] help these children — it really is a group effort.”
Presutto seconds Contardi’s notion that this incredible endeavour they were called to spearhead would not be possible without the help of its many moving parts. “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples,” says Presutto, quoting Mother Teresa. She makes it clear that she is passionate about helping families affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) equally, without any bias.
The movement is growing and neighbouring communities are taking notice. Contardi shares that the organization has people regularly requesting to open up chapters of Waves of Changes in their own communities (like Newmarket and Oak Ridges). “I would love to see that,” says Contardi. “When you have the opportunity to help a family directly, people want to get involved, and that’s where the change truly lies.”
Registration for financial assistance is now open on the Waves of Changes website. The application deadline is Dec. 31. Families can also visit the Waves of Changes website for additional information on the organization and useful community resources.