Behind the Scenes of Your Favorite Cuisine
The Dan Marino Foundation
Written by Cynthia Goodman
Many of us have heart-grabbing fears, and a general lack of knowledge when we hear the word autism, especially if we have, or are about to have, children. One in 100 children are diagnosed with autism. Yet the condition is still largely misunderstood. Fortunately, that is changing, thanks in large part to one of our own, Dan Marino.
Children and adults with autism, a problem associated with normal development of the brain, have problems with communication, social interaction and even play activities. It’s hard for them to relate to the outside world. Dan Marino and his wife Claire have been at the forefront in a heartfelt and successful fight with autism. Their son, Michael, was diagnosed with autism at age 2. Unlike other parents with autistic children, they did have the resources to bring in specialists to work with Michael daily in their home. But instead of shutting off and isolating themselves to deal with Michael’s disability, they dedicated themselves to ensuring that everyone like Michael could have the same opportunities he had. The Marinos began a foundation that led to the Dan Marino Center (danmarinofoundation.org) in South Florida that today helps about 3,500 children a month with learning disabilities.
As Mary Partin, CEO of the Dan Marino Foundation explains, “The Marinos have a real feel in their hearts for this since 1992, and are just as dedicated today as back then. They see the need, and the differences that can be made. The Marinos’ remain passionate about the Foundation’s mission to “open doors” for children and young adults.” Partin says it was the Marino’s idea to use the phrase “open doors” because they wanted there to be a place “where people who may not have the resources can bring their children to get diagnosed and treated.”
The various arms of the Marino center help with outreach services, research for transition programs, summer jobs and full time employment, and many other programs that help autistic kids and teens gain the skills to be independent. The Foundation will soon open the “Open Door Café”, in partnership with the K.C. Wright School Board, in Fort. Lauderdale. The coffeehouse will begin operations with 14 employees from the Marino Center. “These employees will learn a trade and then more people will be hired,” says Partin. “This will show that young people with a disability are capable, intelligent. Employers will see the importance of opportunity to support individuals, not a disability.”
Michael Marino himself, now a college student, is a sterling example of what can be done. “I won’t say I have been cured because you can’t really be cured of autism. But I have overcome it. I don’t notice it at all anymore.”
Michael’s is an encouraging story, and because of the Marino Center, it is one whose happy ending can be repeated for all who enter its “open doors.”-DUO