Hofstra men’s basketball and several student and community groups teamed up to participate in the NCAA’s “Coaches Powering Forward for Autism,” an initiative to promote awareness and acceptance of autism. Adam Halpern, learning specialist in Hofstra’s Student Access Services and a doctoral candidate in the School of Education’s Education Policy and Leadership program, organized the event, which raised $3,500 for the Long Island Chapter of Autism Speaks.
“Over my six years here at Hofstra, I have built great relationships with many offices, departments, student groups, faculty and the Hofstra Community at large,” Halpern said. “It was in the spirit of raising awareness for a great cause that I reached out to and used all of my relationships in order to organize and manage the event.”
The event took place during a men’s basketball game against Drexel University. It was a collaboration among Hofstra Athletics, Hofstra’s Special Education Graduate Association (SEGA), Hofstra Pride Pals, the Long Island Council for Exceptional Children and the Organization for Autism Research. Pride Pals is a student-run club that promotes disability activism and fosters friendships between students with and without disabilities.
Students from local schools and group homes were invited to the game. The men’s basketball team wore autism awareness t-shirts during warm-ups, and the coaching staffs from both Hofstra and Drexel wore blue puzzle autism awareness pins. Throughout the game, attendees were invited to participate in on-court promotions, wristband and t-shirt giveaways, and raffles.
“We are honored to host such an important event here at Hofstra University,” commented Hofstra Head Men’s Basketball Coach Joe Mihalich. “The Coaches Powering Forward for Autism initiative means a great deal to our program and to me personally, and I am thrilled to take part. Thanks to Adam Halpern and all those who made it possible.”
Student Access Services donated an iPad, Hofstra Athletics donated gear, pins and signage, and the Organization for Autism Research donated bracelets. The Long Island Council for Exceptional Children, for which Halpern serves as president, solicited funds to cover the cost of the T-shirts that were sold during the event so that 100 percent of the proceeds could be donated. SEGA and Pride Pals, as well as Alpha Mu fraternity and SDT sorority members, sold 600 T-shirts before and during the game.
Coaches Powering Forward for Autism started in 2014. Hofstra participated last year by raising money and upped its ante this year by organizing an event around the game. Recognizing the importance of the cause, Halpern hopes to make this an annual event at Hofstra.
“Hofstra takes pride in supporting inclusivity of various populations. Included in this broad umbrella of diversity are people with learning differences and special needs,” Halpern said. “This is important to students at Hofstra on a global scale but particularly those students enrolled in the School of Education who are most likely to be called upon to support students with varying degrees of needs.”