When Joel Levine spoke to the crowd gathered at Engineers Country Club to raise money for the Family Center for Autism and the Ellie’s Army Foundation, he told them he figured the hardest job he would ever have was being the parent of a child with autism. As life went on, and his eldest child James grew up, he found that wasn’t the case.
“What I learned recently is that’s the second-hardest job,” Levine said. “The hardest job I’m ever going to have is being the parent of an adult with autism.”
The school system acts as a safety net for children with autism as they grow up, Levine said. After graduation, however, those same systems that help adolescents are taken away, leaving most without the means to support themselves or socialize.
That need is what the football-themed Monday Night Party at Engineers Country Club tries to muster the resources to help solve.
“We’re here to improve the lives of children with autism and terminal illnesses,” Levine said. “Autism and cystic fibrosis are undefeated. We’re never going to be able to cure Jamie, but what we can do with the funds tonight is hope to improve other aspects of their life.”
The event also raised money for Ellie’s Army, a non-profit that helps children battling life-threatening illnesses like cystic fibrosis.
To accomplish its goals, the event featured appearances from several players on both the New York Jets and Giants.
“It’s a special night,” Jets running back Bilal Powell said. “It’s great having guys come out and coming together for a special cause.”
Additionally, the event included a silent auction of signed NFL memorabilia from 16 teams, including, perhaps most notably, a vintage Cleveland Browns jersey signed by NFL Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown.
The event was abuzz with children ecstatic at seeing their favorite players up close. Some of the players, like Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree, a cosponsor of the event along with Powell and Giants backup quarterback Alex Tanney, even joined the kids in playing the NFL-themed video game Madden NFL 20.
“My son loves the Giants, so do I, but our two worlds come together when they’re doing good,” Shepherd Baum, owner of Summit Camp, a sleepaway camp for children with special needs, said. “Seeing all these players out here to help raise money and support such noble causes is amazing for us.”
All total, the ninth annual edition of the Monday Night Party raised $150,000 for the Family Center for Autism and Ellie’s Army.