Rain dripped through Isabelle Mosca’s hair as she helped distribute bubbles to students Thursday afternoon at the Ventnor Educational Community Complex, but she wasn’t discouraged by the drizzle.
“I talked to someone in Algeria, and it’s not raining there,” she said of her international effort to raise awareness of autism by having a simultaneous bubble-blowing event during Autism Awareness Month in April.
More than 200 schools, nonprofit groups and businesses had pledged to participate as of Thursday, and Mosca said this year she has been more coordinated in getting contact information so that the event can be submitted to the Guinness World Records.
This is the ninth year for the Blow Bubbles 4 Autism event, and Mosca’s third try at breaking the record of 34,529 participants all blowing bubbles at the same time. Last year Mosca, who is executive director of FACES, the Families for Autistic Children Education and Support network, thought they broke the record, but not all participating groups properly filed the paperwork needed to be officially counted.
“I know we have more than 35,000 people this year,” she said. “I just have to get them to send me the paperwork.”
She said it likely will be about a month before she hears from Guinness, but that even if they do not break the record, the event has helped raise awareness and acceptance of autism, a brain disorder that is characterized by poor social interaction and communication, and repetitive behaviors. Mosca’s son Kyle, a seventh-grader at the Ventnor school, is autistic and he and his twin sister, Isabelle, have written a book about the disorder.
Once the Ventnor students went in from the rain, they watched a short video on using the “R” word and took a pledge not to call anyone retarded.
Lisa Bryant, president of the Cape May chapter of FACES, said the event has helped raise awareness and acceptance of her autistic son, Jacyn, 11, a student at the Sandman School in Lower Township. James Dietrich, a retired police officer and behavioral management assistant in the district, coordinated the bubbles event at the Maud Abrams and Sandman schools, and this year he included a small note with each bottle of bubbles to explain its purpose.
“My son is involved in the school and community,” Bryant said. “He plays sports now, and I cried when I got to see him out there with the other kids. They’ve just accepted him.”
While dozens of southern New Jersey schools traditionally participate, the event has gone global through Facebook. This year there also are participants from Arizona, California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas, New York, Florida, New Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Australia and Canada. Most are schools, but businesses and most Atlantic City casinos also signed up to participate.
In Trenton, representatives from several state agencies and their children, who were participating in the National Bring Your Child To Work Day, stood on the Statehouse steps to blow bubbles. Department of Human Services spokeswoman Michell Basalik said while the skies were gray, about 200 people participated.
Mosca said she didn’t yet know if the weather had prevented any groups for participating at the designated 1:15 p.m. start time.
At Memorial School in Millville, students blew bubbles indoors, though students in other city schools did make it outside.
Dennis Township postponed its event one day because of the weather, coordinator Liz Romano said. The school is also sponsoring a Dress Down Day with proceeds going to FACES and is holding a poster contest and Lunch Bunch Trivia Bowl during lunch periods to review facts and figures about autism.
“As long as they do it,” Mosca said. “It’s raising awareness that matters most.”
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