Raising a child with autism is a full-time job - one that requires long, irregular hours and often precludes an active social life.
But while getting away is difficult, the occasional break is necessary, autism advocate Susan Elmer says.
On April 13, autism-affected families have a chance for a guilt-free getaway with the FACES 4 Autism support network's Stand Up For Autism comedy fundraiser at the Mays Landing Country Club.
Elmer, a member of the group who served as its president from 2011 to 2012, said the evening will be a good time.
"Life is just chaotic. It forces you to take that night off and you're glad you did, because you just laugh so hard," said Elmer, whose 16-year-old son, Timmy, has autism. "Laughter is very healing."
FACES 4 Autism was started in 2002 by Ventnor couple Ken and Isabelle Mosca, who noted a lack of support in the area for families affected by autism when their son, Kyle, received a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome at 20 months old.
A little more than a decade later, FACES 4 Autism has become one of the largest such groups in New Jersey, serving about 500 families from Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean and Cumberland counties with its network of doctors, lawyers, counselors and therapists.
The Stand Up For Autism show is the flagship of the group's fundraising calendar. This is the third year in a row for the event, which was also held for a few years in the mid-2000s, in its current incarnation.
The show will be headlined by New York City-based entertainer Gemini, who does comedy, ventriloquism and magic. Comedians Joel Richardson and Sergio Chicon, also from New York, round out the bill. The show will run from 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $50 and include a dinner buffet.
The event is sponsored by Atlantic City Electric, the Shore Medical Foundation and Gold Transportation.
The show usually draws about 200 people, many of them personally affected by autism, but attendees don't have to be touched by the disorder to get behind the cause, Ken Mosca said.
"We've got people who are parents of kids with autism. We get parents and grandparents who don't have kids with autism - they just want to support us," he said. "It's almost become a who's who on the local political front. We get a lot of great, outstanding people."
Proceeds from the event will help pay for FACES 4 Autism's support groups and other programs, which include an annual conference.
FACES 4 Autism has become a valuable resource in the area because there's nothing else like it around, Elmer said, and her experience has been particularly strong. Timmy is verbal, which puts him on the higher-functioning end of the spectrum, but had behavior issues as a child that got him labeled a bad kid, she said. Being active in the group's programs has helped him learn self-control and confidence, Elmer said, and as a high-functioning person with the disorder, he has become a sort of autism ambassador.
In Elmer's eyes, FACES is a cause highly worthy of support, and there's no better way to help than buying a ticket.
"This is an easy way to support (those affected by) autism," Elmer said. "You don't have to walk 10 miles. You don't have to give too much of yourself. You go and have a great time."
Contact Braden Campbell:
If you go
What: Third annual Stand Up for Autism comedy night, benefiting FACES 4 Autism
When: 6 to 10 p.m. April 13
Where: Mays Landing Country Club, 1825 Cates Road, Mays Landing
More info: See faces4autism.org.