steaming hot java, tea and cocoa aren't the main reasons that
patrons flock to the once-a-year East Coffee House.
annual fundraiser in the Cherry Hill High School East
cafeteria, hosted by the school's East Singers and Thespian
Society, features students whose talents in the fine and
performing arts take center stage -- and also turns the
spotlight on a worthy cause that always hits home.
year we pick a different organization," said East Singers
Vice President Hayley Cohen, 17, a senior soprano.
Hill East's third annual coffee house Saturday will benefit
Just 2 Moms, an autism awareness organization formed by two
women whose sons have the disorder.
Choral director Laurie Lausi rehearses Cherry Hill East
students on Tuesday in preparation for their annual
fundraiser. Saturday's show, "Everybody Fits,' will
benefit an autism awareness organization.
first coffee house raised more than $8,000 for Alex's Lemonade
Stand, an organization that funds pediatric cancer research. It was
chosen because a member of East Singers had a brother with leukemia.
year, the event raised $5,000 for the Ian Oliu Foundation for Life,
dedicated to furthering mental health awareness/crisis prevention
initiatives. The foundation was established by the family of Oliu,
an East student who took his own life in 2002.
time, students are tackling autism, a neurological disorder that may
affect one in 150 children and has no known cure. The disorder is
often characterized by social detachment, heightened senses and the
tendency to obsess on one thing.
teens were drawn to Just 2 Moms, whose founders -- Debbie Schmidt
and Christy Carlson -- developed a DVD on the topic narrated by
Schmidt's son Jordan, 12. The pair give presentations in
schools, seeking to raise understanding among other youngsters.
said she baby-sat for Carlson's son, Erik, 6, who has the disorder.
Another East Singer, junior soprano Caitlin Weaver, 16, said she has
a cousin who was just diagnosed with it.
with East Singer Katerina Madson, Cohen will sing Ingrid
Michaelson's "The Way I Am," with lyrics that talk about
accepting people as they are.
Miss New Jersey Erica Scanlon of Pitman, whose younger sister has
autism, will sing and speak about her Miss America platform, autism
advocacy and awareness. Jordan Schmidt, a sixth-grader at
, will read his original poem, "Living with Autism."
most of the 27 acts involve singing or instrumental performances,
there also will be a stand-up comic routine and ballet en pointe.
Each act has a thematic link to understanding autism, often viewed
as a puzzle in which the pieces don't quite fit.
fact, this year's event has been dubbed "Everybody Fits."
people with autism can lead a normal life," said East Singers
President Richie Sklar, 17, a senior tenor.
students Emily Grossman and Susan Song designed a logo incorporating
a swirling ribbon of puzzle pieces and musical notes, which has been
transferred onto T-shirts being worn by coffee house participants
and for sale at the event.
price of admission, $5, covers beverages, entertainment and an
autism-logo puzzle pin. The pins were assembled by East students and
members of STAR, a
club devoted to autism research.
students who belong to STAR also donated boxes of hot chocolate.
addition to the T-shirts, patrons can buy pottery and jewelry
crafted by East art students and baked goods.
bake sale is really great because it gets everyone involved,"
said East Singers alto Shanny Shmuel, 17, a senior who makes
all, about 100 students are participating in the coffee house in
Singers Director Laurie Lausi said the students have been looking
forward to this event since the last one ended.
love to use their talents to give back to the community. They're
determined to see that the money they raise impacts the students of
first," Lausi said.
Schmidt said the money will help her and Carlson to reproduce and
distribute their DVD and expand Just 2 Moms.
will take us to the next step and help us make this a national
program. I'm tickled and humbled that the students picked us. It's
an extreme honor," she said.
Barbara S. Rothschild at (856) 486-2416 or firstname.lastname@example.org