When Ken and Isabelle Mosca's son, Kyle, received a diagnosis at 20 months old of Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, they were scared. The diagnosis cast a haze over their son's future, one that a relative lack of autism support in the area did little to clear up.
The Ventnor residents threw themselves into Kyle's treatment, learning as much as they could about his disorder in the hopes of giving him as normal a life as possible. A year and a half later, the couple still knew little about the disorder - but what they did know, they decided to share, and in 2002 they founded a support group called FACES 4 Autism.
After a little more than a decade in action, 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.
On April 13, the group will hold its flagship fundraiser, the comedy show Stand Up For Autism, at the Mays Landing Country Club in Mays Landing.
For parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder, for whom the evening is geared, Ken said the show is as much an opportunity to help out a cause it is a chance to get away from their stresses.
"A lot of parents, it's almost like their only night out of the year," Ken said. "They can get away from things, and they laugh."
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 also include a dinner buffet.
The event is sponsored by Atlantic City Electric, the Shore Medical Foundation and Gold Transportation. Proceeds will be used to help pay for FACES 4 Autism's support groups and other programs.
Susan Elmer, a resident of the Scullville section of Egg Harbor Township, has been part of the group since its first meeting in 2002. Her 16-year-old son, Timmy, also has Asperger's syndrome.
While Timmy is verbal, putting him on the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum, he's had behavioral issues since childhood. His being part of FACES as a peer mentor and, at its conference in March at Stockton College, as a public speaker, has drastically improved his condition.
"We couldn't really go many places, he was seen as just a bad kid all the time," said Elmer, who was the group's president from 2011 to 2012. "Now he has empathy because of all the work he's done helping FACES."
Elmer, who has been to the previous Stand Up for Autism shows, said she is eagerly anticipating this year's show, and says others should do the same.
"If you can't make it, you're missing one of the most fun nights of the year," Elmer said. "It's a worthy cause, and the venue is really nice, too."
Contact Braden Campbell:
If you go
Third annual Stand Up for Autism comedy night, benefitting FACES 4 Autism
April 13, 6-10 p.m.
Mays Landing Country Club, 1825 Cates Road, Mays Landing