BRIDGES visits A Painting Fiesta

BRIDGES visits A Painting Fiesta

This month, the BRIDGES class took a trip to A Painting Fiesta Art Studio for a social skills opportunity and fun outing. This trip allowed the students to explore their creativity through specific guidelines set forth by the studio. The social skills they used were those of receptive and visual communication that were then represented in their paintings. The students interacted and shared this experience together, which developed their group skills even further.

At A Painting Fiesta Art Studio, they had a sensory filled painting experience. It was a very hands-on way to employ their visual and auditory communication skills, following the spoken and visual guidelines provided by the instructor of the painting class. They also had the opportunity to explore their creative nature, as there was some freedom despite the guidelines. Even though they had the same instruction, the student’s art pieces looked different based on their own personal touch.

This was also great instruction on how to cope with stress. Observing and creating art is a very calming experience, and a great way to relieve stress. This teaches the students an activity that they can then use later on if they encounter a stressful situation, and they get a nice decoration out of it!

In addition, this was a community building experience. Any experience that a group of people go through together brings them closer as they have shared it, and can then talk about what they did and how they felt. The students all talked about the experience and their artwork after the class, and enjoyed looking at their own and others’ artwork.

The students had such a fun time at A Painting Fiesta Art Studio, and they all had incredible results! These BRIDGES students are great artists, check out their art in the pictures below. Thank you to A Painting Fiesta Art Studio for hosting this event and helping the BRIDGES students create their masterpieces.

BRIDGES Community Networking Event

BRIDGES Community Networking Event

The BRIDGES Program was created by The HDS Foundation as a community partnership for high school students with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities, who are on a standard diploma track. The program addresses both mentoring, financial tools/education opportunities, high-school events, social, community and other activities, all designed to enrich the daily lives of these older teens navigating the complex road of high school and thereafter.

Many of this evening’s sponsors have collaborated with us to facilitate these activities, programs, and information critical to these families. We want to continue to create awareness about what these types of programs can provide, and the impact to this emerging population. It takes partnerships created through awareness to address this need, and a community to support it!

Please join us at the Midtown Athletic Club MCafe in Weston for a community fundraiser and networking event to benefit the BRIDGES Program. Also, take advantage of some great silent auction items available to purchase during the evening.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Date: January 26, 2017 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Location: Midtown Athletic Club’s M Café | 2300 Royal Palm Boulevard | Weston FL 33326

Tickets: $25 Per Person- Purchase through Eventbrite (Click on TICKETS button)


Team Cypress Bay Top Fundraiser at 2017 DMF Walkabout Autism

Team Cypress Bay Top Fundraiser at 2017 DMF Walkabout Autism

The Dan Marino Walkabout Autism fundraiser is one of the best activities that this community puts on. Not only are the participants exposed to the many community celebrities, and provided different fun family activities, music and food; they do so with the backdrop of the beautiful home of the Miami Dolphins. This annual event not only yields hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Dan Marino Foundation and its programs. It more importantly stays in the South Florida community, where there is much need.

Each year since inception, the HDS Foundation has been a part of this event. Originally fundraising as the coveted “HDS Hackers”, our attention shifted when we realized that our efforts could not only help the DMF Walk but also, the local high school’s ESE Program. It was then that the HDS Foundation partnered with Cypress Bay High School to create Team Cypress Bay, and collaborate on fundraising efforts.

The beauty of the DMF Walkabout is that it provides a direct opportunity for a K-12 School’s ESE Team to become the direct beneficiary of 25% of the funds they raise. This allows the school to utilize these funds to buy equipment, supplies, and utilize for activities that support the programs that benefit this population of students. Cypress Bay High School’s team has raised thousands of dollars for the past several years, and this year, we are so proud that they once again are the #1 fundraising team, with $8,300 raised! One of this year’s captain’s Jeffrey Schour led the way, and engaged many of his peers at the Bay top once again make this event a success. Team Cypress Bay received many donations, most notably to the team as a whole, and with high achieving fundraising performed by Jeffrey Schour, Samantha Burns, The HOPE Club (who showed up in large numbers to support their peers, Donna Mansolillo, and former Cypress Bay alum student Katherine Gilson-Miranda, who attended virtually via Facetime. Now that’s a first!!

The leadership this team showed was inspiring, as we know these students worked very hard to make this event a success. The collaboration of other CBHS students was especially touching, as this has been one of our goals. We were delighted to have many family members also join the walk, and participate in this year’s activities. Special shout out to teachers/facilitators Donna Mansolillo and Kathy Gorman-Gard, Dr. Sandy Rizzo Weiner, Carla Otiniano and Meagan Caruso.

Go #TeamCypressBay!

Holiday Luncheon and Secret Elf 2017

Holiday Luncheon and Secret Elf 2017

On December 15th, the students of Cypress Bay High had their annual Holiday Luncheon and Secret Elf gift exchange. The wonderful luncheon took place at Chili’s for a second year. The HDS Foundation staff was able to join the classes festivities. The students picked out meals under $10 to purchase for themselves, and some chose to get a delicious desert as well. All throughout the meal, the students, teachers, and HDS Foundation crew engaged in great conversations, allowing the students to practice social communicative skills. When drinks, food, and checks were brought to the table, the students practiced more social skills by thanking the waitresses bringing everything out.

The Secret Elf exchange was, for most of the students, the best part of lunch. For Secret Elf, each student was given a list of items they could be gifted, and they selected their preferred gifts so that the total was under $10. They each put their names on the wish-lists, and the lists were shuffled in a hat and redistributed. They then went to A.C. Moore to pick out the presents for their Secret Elf, and paid for them, allowing them to further the social skills needed to maneuver around a store. They chose the wrapping for their presents, some in fun bags with colorful tissue, others wrapped with fun paper. They each also wrote a card to their Secret Elf, so their Secret Elf would know who had gifted them the present. When the time came to open up the presents, everyone was thrilled to have received what they wanted. They focused on saying thank you to the person that had given them their gift, and appreciating the gifts they had received.

In addition to receiving their Secret Elf gifts, the students and teachers received a gift from HDS Foundation, and as a special thank you to the teachers. Carla Otiniano the Program Manager gave a wonderful speech, thanking the teachers for their amazing work and letting the students know how amazing it has been working with them. Everyone had a great time opening and appreciating their gifts, and conversation seemed to flow effortlessly among everyone who was there.

When it was time to pay, the students all calculated the tips they needed to add to the bill, helping them develop skills needed in adulthood. After everyone had payed, gotten back their cards, and thanked the waitresses, it was time to go. All in all, it was a very successful luncheon, and everyone had a great time! Thank you to Cypress Bay for a wonderful first semester this year with BRIDGES, it is incredible working with you!

THRIVE Christmas Party

THRIVE Christmas Party

College isn’t just about going to class and writing papers. The full college experience includes meeting new people, making great friends, and having a blast. Social life is an essential and fun part of college, and that is no different for the Project THRIVE students. Last December, THRIVE organized a Christmas party for students to intermingle and have festive fun.

THRIVE Students have Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or related disorders, and generally find it difficult to initiate social interactions and make connections with others. THRIVE realizes that socializing is an important aspect of college, and necessary in life. Therefore, THRIVE hosts these casual functions to promote interest in students and strengthen their ability to establish communication within and outside the THRIVE community.

The Christmas party kicked off with an amazing gingerbread house decorating contest. Everyone tried their hand at cookie construction while listening to holiday music that set the cheerful mood. The HDS Foundation is proud to have supported THRIVE by donating a variety of materials for the party. All of the students in attendance had a great time listening to music, building gingerbread houses, and eating candy in preparation for the exciting holidays that followed.

Happy holidays from THRIVE and the HDS Foundation!

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