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Moms Making a Special Difference

What Started With Their Sons Is Now Reshaping Their Community

Recently, Terriann LoVerde from Accentuate with LoVe brought together two moms she knows who are dealing with similar circumstances of raising children with autism. Terriann felt that these women should know each other for all the good that they’re each doing.

Being a parent is said to be the hardest — and the best — job you can ever have. It’s a lifetime of highs and lows, of unforeseen challenges that can often seem overwhelming, even when everything is following a normal path. But what happens when the path isn’t so straightforward?

For Amy Goldberg and Pam Donovan, their families had to take a different path. As parents of children with special needs, they would come to find that there were societal roadblocks that would make their transition to adulthood a nightmare. But these were not moms who were going to let that stop them, or keep their children from proving that they aren’t simply people with special needs — they’re special people.

When Amy enrolled her three-year-old son who was diagnosed with autism in a public school setting for children with special needs, she quickly found out that it was not what he needed. They had to find an out-of-district option. But even that was a temporary solution. Once they turn 21 they are out of the program that has provided them with a childhood lifetime of support and skill acquisition to build independence — they have nowhere to go. 

“Once they age out, they fall off the cliff. There’s no more funding from the school districts. And for a program that costs nearly $400 a day, it’s just not something that most families can take on.”

Enter New Beginnings for Tomorrow. Seven years ago, Amy became their first employee as their head of fundraising for a facility that now serves 80 families with a lifetime of care for those with developmental disabilities. She’s found her calling, making sure that all people with developmental needs can find a place where they can thrive.

For Pam, her moment of discovery came as she went to enroll her son — also diagnosed with autism — in a program that promised hands-on learning and skill acquisition. Then she saw what came with it. “They sat them in a room and played a CD. That’s it.”, she said about their music program. That was enough to show her that he needed more. 

She also realized that there were no “normal” milestones in our culture for people with special needs. So she set upon an entrepreneurial path creating some for her son Ethan and others like him.

Pam would go on to found Ethan and the Bean, a Little Falls coffee shop staffed by people with developmental disabilities. There, the workers learn valuable life skills and the community gets to experience a direct connection with these special people. She’s doing this for the greater good.

Families who find themselves in these circumstances are instantly required to be untrained experts in an area that has no manual. For Amy and Pam, they’re taking that challenge head-on. They’re moms who just won’t quit.

  • Amy
  • Ethan with Pam
  • Pam
  • Jeremy with Amy