When East Greenwich resident Suzy Im noticed what she calls a “lack of awareness” regarding the needs of neurodivergent children locally and globally, she wanted to do something about it. As a parent of a child with special needs, she set out to create awareness, inclusivity, and practical education for the neurodivergent community (recognized types of neurodiversity include autism, Asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia, dyscalculia, epilepsy, hyperlexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Tourette syndrome).
So, she and her husband Jake co-founded the EG-based nonprofit Sponsors of the Future (SoF), a 501(c)(3) that launched in June 2022 with the mission of connecting “different stakeholders to form ecosystems that support the neurodivergent community, through education, advocacy, and inclusion for a brighter, more independent future,” according to the foundation’s website.
“We worry about what a kids’ life will be after they graduate, and there are very limited programs out there to teach kids practical life skills,” said Im, who, along with co-founding SoF, is its managing partner. “Life skills are really important, especially for kids with some challenges.”
And that’s why on July 27, SoF will attempt to address just that by hosting the Life Skill Lesson Series, a free one-day event for up to 15 kids aged 10 to 16 (not limited to those neurodivergent disabilities) to gain on-the-ground training with the help of three East Greenwich businesses. The event aims to teach kids decision-making skills while handling food, money, and their own health.
One of the businesses that will be participating in the Life Skills Lesson Series is Heathtrax.
“I’m excited to help with this event because it is important for kids and teens to learn proper weight lifting form, gym etiquette, and have a positive view of exercise,” said Lydia Clarkin, personal trainer. “During the event, we will go over the many physical and mental benefits that resistance training has to offer. We will also do a quick workout together to demonstrate that exercise can be fun. I hope this event will encourage kids to live an active lifestyle.”
In addition to Healthtrax, Dave’s Marketplace and BankNewport will participate in the Life Skills Lesson Series to provide participants with real-world knowledge from personal trainers, bankers, and grocery store managers.
“As a parent of a child with special needs, my great concern is for post-high school,” said Lauren Cheng, head of community relations for SoF. “I would be very happy if he could maintain a job at Stop & Shop collecting carts, stocking, this kind of stuff, but to do that, he needs life skills.”
Following the Life Skill Lesson Series, SoF will host its annual fundraiser on July 28 at Safehouse Modern Neighborhood Eatery on Old Forge Road. There will be a sit-down dinner, drinks, and a silent auction.
“The proceeds from the event will help us fund programs like these ranging from life and social skills to professional career training programs all year round,” according to a press release. Some of the silent auction items include a signed photo of Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr., and overnight stays at Payne Inn on Block Island, Omni Hotel in Providence, and the Viking Hotel in Newport, according to information provided by SoF.
Im explained that by working with local businesses, the organization is attempting to raise awareness and influence other businesses to become more inclusive regarding members of the neurodivergent community.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to bridge the gap,” she said.