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Outpouring of support renews hope for nonprofit helping individuals with autism

Roses for Autism interns, Katie and Justin, hold two of the 84 rose bushes donated by Prides Corner Farms after learning the farm’s new sensory garden was destroyed by vandals. Roses for Autism has been flooded with donations since news of the damage spread.

An outraged community has showered Roses for Autism in Guilford with donations and goodwill since the devastating news broke last week that vandals had twice destroyed their newly planted sensory garden. The outpouring of support includes both floral and financial contributions totaling more $22,900.

“To say that we are overwhelmed by the amazing generosity and encouragement that we have received would be an understatement,” said Michelle Ouimette, Managing Director of Roses for Autism. “Everyone has rallied around our dream of a community garden and are bringing it back to life.”

A sensory garden is specifically organized into different garden beds that are dedicated to inspiring the different senses. The garden can be both therapeutic and educational for a variety of individuals, particularly those with disabilities whose sensory responses are impacted.

The nonprofit organization canceled the grand opening ceremony planned for June 24th after they discovered plants had been taken, statues stolen and structures damaged. In order to rebuild the garden they created a GoFundMe page to raise $10,000 and recruit volunteers.

The response was immediate after word of the vandalism spread.

“I was disgusted by the news of your recent Sensory Garden vandalism reported last week. Why someone could do that is beyond my comprehension. So I would like to help in replanting it,” wrote Len Giddix in an email to Roses for Autism. He is the host of Garden Talk on WTIC-AM radio and an employee of Prides Corner Farms in Lebanon.

Thanks to Giddix’ request, Prides Corner Farms has donated an astonishing 84 rose bushes. The new At Last variety is an extremely disease resistant, fragrant peach-colored shrub rose that won’t be introduced by grower Proven Winners until spring 2018.  The one gallon potted bushes are safely stored in the Roses for Autism greenhouse for the time being.

Financial donations include $5,000 from long time Roses for Autism supporters Kevin & Elaine Cox from their family foundation, and $2,500 from David Kasairz.  Both Kevin Cox and David Kasairz are board members of Ability Beyond, the parent company of Roses for Autism.  In addition, American Express is matching $2,500 of Kasairz’s donation.

“We want to thank all of the compassionate donors for surpassing our original goal,” said Ouimette. “All additional monies will be devoted to ongoing programs at Roses for Autism.”

Before construction on the new garden begins, Ouimette outlines the new security measures that will be put in place. Solar cameras are in the process of being installed around the entire outer perimeter of the grounds. If any motion is detected, a signal is sent out to all management cell phones. The organization is continuing to work with the Guilford Police to identify the culprits and implement other safeguards.

The remaining flower beds have been dismantled and stored in the greenhouse for fresh replanting later this summer. The expected grand opening ceremony will be held on Saturday, September 16th.

“While this experience has been difficult for all us to comprehend, it has been heartwarming to see the number of people who want to help us make a beautiful space for everyone to enjoy,” explained Ouimette.

Roses for Autism is a 501(c)(3) non-profit social enterprise whose mission is to foster meaningful employment for individuals with Autism.

For more information visit rosesforautism.com

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