From left, State Senator Anthony Portantino, Dr. Diane Cullinane, Lin and Alan Vlacich, Rep. Judy Chu, Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, Christian Daly, field representative for L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. Photo by Henk Friezer

Scores of So Pas residents came out to support the Professional Child Development Associates (PCDA) 10th annual Harvest Moon Magic: Gala Dinner and Art Auction last Sunday to raise funds for its clinic serving children with autism or other developmental disabilities and their families.

The event, held in the yard of Therese and Mario Molina, raised thousands of dollars for special needs’ children, according to officials that put on the event.

“This is a fantastic organization,” said Rep. Judy Chu, D-27th District, as she mingled with the guests at the event. “This organization helps so many kids. I have such respect for the work that they do.”

Other dignitaries on hand agreed. In fact, So Pas Mayor Dr. Richard D. Schneider said he thought Chu said it perfectly.

From left, Therese Molina, Rep. Judy Chu, Mario Molina, Dr. Diane Cullinane, Barbara Sinclair, State Senator Anthony Portantino and Dr. Richard Schneider.

“I really do believe what Judy Chu said was perfect,” Schneider said. “Everything the organization does, all the work they put in, the respect is well-deserved.”

Mario Molina concurred with what was said and added that he was grateful to be able to be a part of the fundraiser.
“This organization is very important,” Molina said. “It provides a full autism spectrum and benefits so many children. I’m grateful that we can be a part of it.”

The PCDA serves roughly 1,200 kids with an annual budget of about $5 million, according to Eric Kaufman, chairman of the PCDA board of directors. Kaufman estimated that this fundraiser could raise as much as $200,000.

“And it’s needed,” Kaufman said. “We can’t do the work without the support we get from communities like South Pasadena.”

The evening was catered by Pasadena’s popular Parkway Grill and  incorporated the magic of imagination.

“Magic is such an important part of childhood, and PCDA helps children use their imagination to spur their development and growth, so it’s a wonderful theme for our celebration,” said Harvest Moon Committee Chair Chelby Crawford in a prepared statement.

THe PCDA Gala fundraiser was a huge success with auctions such as the ones pictured here. Photos by Henk Friezer

The event had a distinguished roster of honorees. The recipient of this year’s Community Service Award was Alan Vlacich. Dr. Joshua Feder received the Greenspan Humanitarian Award, given to a professional who has made a significant impact supporting children with autism using the developmental and relational approach called DIR®. Developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan, DIR is employed in all programs at PCDA.

Accepting this year’s Achievement Award was Joshua Ray Cabrera, a member of PCDA’s Teen Club and a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School, where his academic interests include math, engineering, computer animation and robotics. When he was diagnosed with autism at age five, Cabrera started at PCDA in the DIR®/Floortime program. At age 13, Cabrera started Teen Club, which he said he loves.

“He has grown so much, from being shy and reserved to being confident, learning how to ask for help, and taking charge in any situation,” Marissa Cabrera, Joshua’s mother, said in a prepared statement. After graduating, Joshua Cabrera plans to attend college and hopes to one day attend UCLA. He would like to become an engineer and contribute to his community, according to the printed material handed out at the event.

Dr. Diane Cullinane, PCDA executive director, said she was grateful for the community support.

“We are just so excited and grateful for the support,” Cullinane said as she was quickly moving to her next task at hand for the evening’s festivities. “We could not do the work that we do without this support.”

For 21 years, PCDA has improved the quality of life for children with autism and other developmental disabilities and their families. Using a play-based therapeutic approach, PCDA clinicians see over 800 children, teens and young adults every week, helping them to reach developmental milestones, live more fulfilling lives, and enjoy warm and loving relationships.

So Pas City Councilwoman Diana Mahmud explained the organization’s importance this way.

“My stepson has autism,” Mahmud said. “He’s on the spectrum and he has seen a time when there were very few services offered to those with autism. This organization is changing that. This organization is vital and this evening is great.”

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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