Announcing the "Our Special Place" Center for Special Needs Picnic: Bucks Mill Park, Colts Neck New Jersey

Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

We're excited to announce the 2nd annual Our Special Place Picnic.  What is "Our Special Place?"

Diagnosis Day -- You Lose Your Breathour special place matawan nj

On April 19, 2004, our youngest son was diagnosed with autism. At the time I reached out to a dear friend from Wall Street who shared a prescient view: "Once you get your son squared away, you and Liz are going to help a lot of people."

I dismissed the prediction. We had immediate problems: teaching "E" to talk, use the toilet, dress himself, make eye contact, share, take turns, understand life and death, love, overcome frustration, regulate with others, engage with people for the love of social connection.

A neuro-typical child learns how to function organically. A special needs child must be taught step-by-step. I estimate that "E" and I have spent 800 hours learning how to cross a street.

Genesis of Our Special Place

Needless to say that to teach an impaired child how to join civilization is an intensive mission.  It wears on the pysche and the checkbook. Each day, Liz and I and a host of therapists and professionals instructed "E" on mundane tasks and gradually increased the sophistication of his newly acquired world view. We knew of other boys who shared the same issues. Eventually, we brought the boys together in our basement for a social group. They met a few days a week for over a year.

The Shake in the Middle of the Night

One night Liz shook me awake.our special place matawan nj

"We need to help more kids," she said.  "These kids need their own place to go. I want to open a non profit for special needs children. You're a Realtor. Go find me office space."

So Liz and Dawn Fittipaldi, O.S.P.'s Executive Director (who has a twenty year resume with the GRACE Foundation), started the legal process. A year later the Internal Revenue Service approved Our Special Place as a registered 501(c)-3 non-profit organization.

Last year Liz, Dawn and their intrepid volunteers raised almost $25,000.

The Board decided to raffle off free tuition to four of the thirty families that come to O.S.P. Liz and Dawn also announced an across-the-board cut in tuition by 20%.

Liz donates on average 20 hours a week to O.S.P. and families with special needs. She does not draw a salary. The Lenza family has not -- nor ever will -- make one dollar off autism.

Who is "Our?"occupational therapy matawan nj 07747

Liz (and Dawn) is often referred to as the Founder of O.S.P.

Liz is quick to correct: "O.S.P. was founded by four little boys who didn't know the odds were stacked against them when we started, that only 10% of children with autism get jobs as adults, only 5% live independently, and less than 1% get married and raise children."

We're blessed. God blessed "E" with an indefatigable spirit.  Our son now knows he has autism. He's asked if he'll get married and father children. "E" is considered higher functioning. One day while we were driving to the center he opined that "we named O.S.P. wrong. It should be called My Special Place because I started it."

We've added humility to the list of things "E" needs to work on. 

Picnic Information -- 2nd Annual Fundraiserbucks mill park colts neck

    • Sunday, June 27th from 2PM to 6PM
    • Bucks Mill Fairgrounds, Colts Neck NJ
    • Food, live music, face painting, games and raffles!
    • Call (732) 765-8500 for further details.

Our Special Place is located at 62 Broad Street, Matawan NJ 07747.

Upcoming Course Schedule

  • Spring Session (meets one hour for eight weeks)
  • Summer Camp (meets Tuesday & Thursday from 2PM to 4PM for 6 weeks)
  • Applied Behavioral Analysis ABA (onsite and home-based instructional)
  • Kids Club
  • Me & My Mom
  • Cooking Creations
  • Cool Crafts
  • Fitness & Fun
  • Yoga & Wellness
  • Sibling Success
  • Pals at Play
  • Let's Be Social

Our Special Place (“O.S.P.”) was started by the Fittipaldi and Lenza families and is a registered non-profit charitable organization under the IRS 501(c)-3 code. Our mission is to enrich the lives of children with special needs by providing a variety of professional services in a nurturing and therapeutic environment. 

 We are mothers and fathers. Daughters and sons.  Sisters and brothers.  Friends and therapists. Most of all we are special children.

Comments (12)

Elaine Hanson
Coldwell Banker Realty - Malibu | Topanga - Malibu, CA
REALTOR - Topanga, CA Real Estate Agent

Sounds like a great time for a great cause. 

You know what I think about the work that Liz, her partner and you do.  What an incredible challenge. God bless you all and also Little E.  He has a valuable perspective on this world.

May 19, 2010 12:00 PM
Melina Tomson
Tomson Burnham, llc Licensed in the State of Oregon - Salem, OR
Principal Broker/Owner, M.S.

Andrew I think it is so incredible all the work and fundraising that you guys are doing.  I hope this does well!

May 19, 2010 12:08 PM
Amanda Evans
DFW Living - Fort Worth, TX
Real Estate Broker - Fort Worth Texas

Nice.  I am always amazed that God won't give you more than you can handle.  I'm inspired by people like you, Liz, "E" and the Fittipaldi Family that take what's given to you and then graciously ask for more.

May 19, 2010 12:20 PM
Paul Slaybaugh
Realty Executives - Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale, AZ Real Estate

I'll be at the upcoming, an every successive, event in spirit until circumstances permit a physical presence.   Congratulations on the continued success of your aptly named foundation.  A very special place, indeed.

May 19, 2010 01:05 PM
Lisa Heindel
Crescent City Living LLC - New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Real Estate Broker

Best wishes to you, Liz, E and everyone else involved in OSP on your fundraiser, Andrew.  I have no doubt that it will be a roaring success.

May 19, 2010 04:08 PM
Susan Mangigian
RE/MAX Preferred - West Chester, PA
Chester & Delaware County Homes, Delaware and Ches

Andrew, this story moves me.  Your friend knew you well.  He knew that E was born to just the right mom and dad.  To take something like that diagnosis and come just a few years later to a point where E can ask if he will marry and have children, is nothing short of a miracle and a testament to the love you give him and the work that went with it.  You have a special child but from where I sit, he has pretty special parents as well.  I will be there in spirit with the rest of our group.  

May 20, 2010 07:18 AM
Steve Shatsky
Dallas, TX

Hi Andrew... I am not at all surprised that you would figure so prominently in helping these special children!  Congratulations and I hope that OSP helps many children for years to come.

May 20, 2010 04:57 PM
Dick & Sandy Beals
Wilmington Real Estate 4U Wilmington, NC - Wilmington, NC

Hi Andrew,

As you say "We're blessed" I say The OSP is blessed to have you and Liz!  Best to you and this organization.

Dick Beals

May 21, 2010 02:03 AM
Tanya Nouwens
Immeubles Deakin Realty - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager

There's nothing quite like having a big heart, and marrying someone with a big heart, and then creating children who have a big heart.  Kudos to your entire family, Andrew. -- Tanya in Montreal

May 21, 2010 12:14 PM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

You guys are doing a wonderful thing!  I hope the event is full of laughter!

May 21, 2010 01:35 PM
Elyse Berman, PA
LoKation Real Estate - Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824

That's a wonderful story!   "E" sounds like a great kid - you're lucky to have each other.  Best of luck to you on June 27th and with OSP for many years to come. 

May 22, 2010 10:29 AM
Andrew J. Lenza
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Holmdel, NJ

@ Elaine, shucks. Don't get me misty.

@ Melina, say a prayer for sunny skies. I'm going to call Tom, head of Parks and Recreation, to reserve the softball field.

@ Mandy, maybe not what you can't handle but a burden that stretches the back? :-)

@ Paul, bring those two pirates and an inflatable raft.

May 25, 2010 06:02 AM