Local Music Festival Helps Make Dreams Come True For Children With Special Needs

Written by Mario Corsaro, Photos by Rachel Meyers

It was another successful year at the Watering Hole in Mays Landing, New Jersey for promoter Jerry Ryan and the sixth annual Elephants for Autism Festival.

The weekend long music festival took place from May 19 to 21, with more than 60 local acts spanning all musical genres performing on the venue’s two outdoor stages. From solo acoustic artists to pounding heavy metal bands and everything in between, there was something for everyone to enjoy. Attendees were also treated to drink and food specials at the bar throughout each day.

Some highlights included a blistering performance by 14-year old guitarist Jacob Neugent and Corinne Podolski, accompanied by her father Matt on guitar and dedicating her set to her sister who was diagnosed with Autism and enjoys singing with her.  

For the past three years, Ryan has donated all proceeds of his event to the Archway School’s music program in Atco, providing children with special needs the opportunity to learn and play music. Having built up the school’s program and looking to branch out his support to the autism awareness cause, he turned to the Sunshine Foundation, an organization that has granted the wishes of 40,000 children who suffer from different illnesses and live in low income households over the past 42 years.

“They are like the original Make-a-Wish Foundation,” Ryan said. “They sent my son to Disney World and when I came back I wanted to do that. I want to help kids go to Disney World and I know how many families cannot afford to go.”

Ryan’s efforts raised over $9,000 and the total continues to grow as last minute donations pour in through the festival’s gofundme.com campaign. Thanks to his contribution, the Sunshine Foundation will be able to send two children and their families on the trip of their dreams.  

“Last year we sponsored Jeremy Ryan and Jerry was so impressed with that,” said Frank Pizzutilla of the Sunshine Foundation. “He said he was going to donate everything from his event and see if we can sponsor a couple of families this year.”

For more information on this great event and donation options, visit:
 www.gofundme.com/elephants-for-autism-fest-support