Our HDS Contenders Team!

Our HDS Contenders Team!

Written by Nico Morales | Feb 8, 2018

I think that the term “Crazy 8” would be very applicable to the events of the recent Dan Marino Walk About Autism. This is due to the fact that I was invited by my coworkers at HDS to participate in the 8th Annual Walk About Autism alongside them, and that it was crazy how much fun of a great time I had before, during, and after the walk. We were all dressed up in our company T-shirts to commemorate this event dedicated to raising money and awareness for people affected by autism and other related disabilities. I can’t stress enough how important this cause is to me and all of my colleagues over at HDS. Our goal this year was to raise a total of $10,000 and I am proud to report that we beat that goal by raising over $11,400! One of the best things about this fundraiser is that 25% of all monies raised by the HDS Contenders goes directly to The HDS Foundation. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without all of the support from our friends and colleagues.

But we weren’t alone in our cause, for I ran into a plethora of familiar faces who were also attending the walk, such as my neighbors, my childhood acquaintance, my friend from Social GAIN, and even my beloved girlfriend and her older sister, who are also major supporters of pro-autism events like this.

One of the highlights of my time there was after the opening ceremony, when I got to meet Froggy. He is one of the radio personalities of Y100, one of my all-time favorite radio stations growing up, and I actually made him laugh with the nickname I thought of for him: Chief Toad.

I also frequented many of the booths set up by various sponsors and vendors, one of which I won a $25 voucher form to set up a tax-free savings account at Able United. It was such an unbelievably wonderful experience, and I don’t plan on forgetting it any time soon.

I am very excited for what next year’s walk will bring; hopefully, we can get an even bigger turnout.

Thank You for Making a Difference!

Thank You for Making a Difference!


We raised a total of $10,000!

We’re so grateful to all of you who’ve helped us reach our goal! We couldn’t have done it without you!

Thank you to all who generously supported the HDS Contenders Team. Your support is so appreciated and will help us achieve our community goals.

Again, thank you to those who have supported our team this year, and in the past, and for those who have included The HDS Foundation in their philanthropy goals. We invite you to visit our website and keep up with what’s happening at the HDS Foundation.

19th International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities, for Research Informed Practice

19th International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities, for Research Informed Practice

This past week, the HDS Foundation attended the 19th International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities, for Research Informed Practice, organized by the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities and held in Clearwater, FL. The Conference went off with a bang with several pre-conference trainings followed by an inspiring opening ceremony featuring keynote speaker Andy Gardiner, Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Community Relations, former president of the Apopka Chamber of Commerce and Former member of the Florida State Senate. Mr. Gardiner spoke of the legislative advocacy  facing individuals with Developmental Disabilities in the state of Florida. He also gave notable advice on becoming involved in initiatives in our own communities helping those with developmental disabilities and insight as a parent to inspire other parents, providers, educators, and community members to do more to have an affect on policy. Poster Presentations by various professors and faculty on different topics of research and studies were displayed followed by the Presidents Reception and a Student Social. 

HDS Foundation staff Carla Otiniano, Program Manager, and Meagan Bouscher, Board Member, attended relative, educational sessions on many subjects including the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Pre- Employment Transition Services, Improvement of Public School Autism Programs, and several Model Transition Programs taking place at different Universities.  There was even a session on “Netflix and Chilling”, and how to navigate the dating world for students in college with ASD, by our friend, Doctoral Candidate, Tara Rowe of the University of North Florida’s Project THRIVE. Foundation staff were also fortunate enough to meet James Williams of the University of Wisconsin, who gave an enlightening session on Navigating the Transition Process through the perspective of someone with Autism.

The final general session presentation was closed by motivational speaker, advocate, and author Robert Pio Hajjar who spoke on how love and hope can transform an individual to bring out the best in themselves and contribute toward a stronger society. His message “I Can, You Can” helps others “to realize ability in disability and to empower champions of inclusion and change” and was an eye-opening ending to an amazing conference.

A Special Thanks to the CEC-DADD and their Conference Committee and the various presenting Professors, Providers and Faculty for putting on such a successful event, and to the many people we were able to meet and network with, to share knowledge and information to improve policy, educational programs and work opportunities for young individuals with autism, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Be sure to come back and check out some of the presentations and available resources from the conference as they become available, on our resources page! 

8th Annual Dan Marino Foundation Walkabout Autism & Expo

8th Annual Dan Marino Foundation Walkabout Autism & Expo

The HDS Foundation is thrilled to once again participate in the 8th Annual Dan Marino Foundation Walkabout Autism & Expo, brought to you by Walgreens, presented by Badia Spices!

For years the Dan Marino Foundation has created many programs for children and young adults with autism in our community.  This will be the 8th year that they are holding this walkabout, and it is the HDS Foundation’s eighth year participating. One of the best things about this fundraiser is that 25% of all monies raised by the HDS Contenders goes directly to The HDS Foundation.  This is great for our organization because it enables us to continue to support and facilitate students and young adults with autism through our programs. Just a sample of some of the great programs that the HDS Foundation sponsors are:

Building Bridges at the Bay: This program helps Cypress Bay High School students with developmental disabilities learn life-long skills needed to function outside of High School.

HDS College Mentors: This program seeks to identify the peripheral needs of students with ASD-related disabilities who are seeking a college degree and living on campus. Mentoring is done through peer collaboration, which is one of the most effective tools available to facilitate the learning process and help navigate social demands.

The K.A.T.E. Scholarship: This scholarship embodies the fundamentals of Kindness, Acceptance, Teamwork and Encouragement, all values which can transform difficult situations into life changing wonderful experiences.

Come to the walk and raise money and awareness for this great cause with the HDS Contenders! Our goal this year is $10,000.  YOU can help us reach that goal! Think about what a great opportunity this is for us to work together and make a difference in the lives of those touched by autism.

Why we need your help:

  • There is no known cause or cure for autism.
  • Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder and, according to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 68 children in the United States are on the autism spectrum.
  • Currently 83% of adults with autism are unemployed, which is a startling statistic!

Help us make a difference by visiting http://myhds.co/hdswalkabout and donating today!

BRIDGES Holiday Party

BRIDGES Holiday Party

Today, December 14th, the BRIDGES class held their annual Holiday Party. The event took place at Chili’s, and was an exciting, fun filled lunch. The HDS Foundation had been so excited to join and was thrilled when the day finally came. Everyone met at Chili’s at 11:30 am, and were surprised to see two Cypress Bay alumni, Kate and Miguel. The students and especially Ms. Mansollilo and Ms. Gard were so happy to see their old students. The Holiday Party brought about great conversation with students, alumni, teachers, and the HDS Foundation members who attended. The students were able to work on and show off their social skills as well as their table skills, from ordering to paying with tip.

One of the highlights of the holiday party every year is the gift exchange. The students participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange, where each student draws another’s name from a hat. Students then learn as much as they can about the person they drew, and aim to get them a thoughtful and fun gift under the gift limit. The students all opened their gifts together, and everyone had big smiles as they opened their gifts, thanking their Secret Santa for what they had received. As tempting as it was to open the gifts and play with them right then, it was time for some lunch.

The waiters came to the table and took everyone’s order, and the students were all looking forward to the dishes they had selected. While waiting for the food, talk revolved around the gifts they had received, holiday plans, and their incoming food. The food arrived and talk stopped as everyone enjoyed the meal and thanked the waiters for bringing it. It turned out being a fantastic lunch.

After lunch, the students received another surprise. Kate, HDS Foundation’s Junior Board Member and BRIDGES alumni, presented the students each with a $25 gift card from the HDS Foundation in celebration of the holidays. The students were incredibly thankful towards the HDS Foundation both for the gift and for their hospitality, and incredibly happy about their gifts and the day. Kate was then asked to come in the new year and speak to the students about her journey after Cypress Bay. Delighted, she accepted and looks forward to the incredible opportunity.

The holiday banquet had come to an end, but spirits were still high. The students payed for their meal and tipped the waiters, thanking them for their work. Thanking HDS Foundation staff again for the hospitality and kindness, the students headed back to school for another exciting day.

The HDS Foundation would like to thank the BRIDGES teachers and students for hosting a wonderful Holiday Party, and to Chili’s for holding the event. Happy Holidays to everyone on behalf of the HDS Foundation, and to a wonderful New Year!

Page 4 of 21« First...23456...1020...Last »