December 4, 2013 at 6:05 PM
MENDHAM – When the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) launched the NJ Walks for TS program in 2010, it had the vision of the New Jersey Tourette community assembling en masse to promote awareness and advocacy for a neurological disorder that remains misdiagnosed and misunderstood by the general public, education and medical professionals.
That mission is not yet fully accomplished, but it is a lot closer to becoming a reality after the 4th annual NJ Walks for TS at Mendham on November 23 drew the program’s largest crowd and greatest fundraising effort to date.
Despite bone-chilling temperatures and brisk winds, more than 400 runners, walkers, volunteers, legislators and members of the general public from more than half of New Jersey’s 21 counties descended upon Borough Park and donned bright orange and green TS awareness T-shirts to support not only NJCTS, but their family, friends, co-workers and the many others affected by Tourette Syndrome.
“The walk gave me opportunity to meet other people with Tourette's and hear their stories,” said Ross Yellin, one of several dozen volunteers who helped out at the event. NJCTS heavily relies on a statewide volunteer network to accomplish its mission of reaching the Tourette Syndrome community through its plethora of wide-reaching programs and services.
The NJ Walks for TS at Mendham fundraising site remained open through December 2 and received additional donations that helped surpass the goal of raising $50,000 to fund the organization’s landmark School In-Service Program, which seeks to educate students and teachers at schools in every corner of New Jersey about Tourette Syndrome, anti-bullying initiatives and self-advocacy.
Since its inception in 2000, the School In-Service Program has reached more than 60,000 students and educators across the state through classroom training and participation in the annual New Jersey Education Association Convention in Atlantic City, state school health conferences, the Council for Exceptional Children and myriad other sessions for educators. It costs NJCTS $71,000 each year to fund the School In-Service Program.
“The School In-Service Program is essential to NJCTS’ goal of ensuring every student, teacher, school nurse and educational support staff in New Jersey understands what Tourette Syndrome is, what it isn’t and the care those affected by it should receive in the school setting,” NJCTS Executive Director Faith Rice said. “This program has been highly successful to date, but there are many more students and educators to reach, and we cannot do it without the continued support of the Tourette Syndrome community through events such as NJ Walks for TS at Mendham.”
One of the School In-Service Program’s presenters, Howell resident Tracy Lederman, Ed.D., is so enthusiastic about the program’s success and what it has done to help her 12-year-old son that her family rented a big yellow school bus to ferry 40 of her relatives and friends to Mendham for the event. Lederman’s son and his cousins ran the entire route and were among the first to cross the finish line.
“We were so excited to get off that bus and participate in the walk,” said Tracy Lederman, who in September led Peer In-Service presentations to teachers in Turnersville school district. “The School In-Service Program is one of the most important aspects of what NJCTS does. Every school in this state needs to realize the importance of this educational tool and how it can benefit their students, teachers and parents.”
For more information about the School In-Service Program or to schedule a presentation for your school, please call 908-575-7350 or visit www.njcts.org.