Last week, I was with a girlfriend who told me about an incredible young lady named, Natalie Cernius. Natalie, a senior at Newport Harbor High School, came to speak at her daughter’s NCL program to share a program she started called Friday Night Club. Natalie has a younger brother, Andrew, with autism and she is getting ready to leave for college next year and began to worry about who was going to be friends with her younger brother once she left?
Natalie and Andrew have two older siblings who are already away at college. Andrew had such a hard time when they left because his siblings are his closest friends. Natalie realized that she would soon be heading off to school as well and needed to do something to help her brother fill the void.
Through The Friday Night Club, special needs teens like Andrew can hang out and have fun with volunteers Natalie has recruited with the help of local schools, the autism support group Talk About Curing Autism, and the National Charity League. The group started meting at Natalie’s house but now gathers at United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County’s headquarters in Irvine.
Andrew is enjoying himself and making new friends at the Friday Night club, thanks to his sister. Natalie is busy applying to college, playing in the orchestra and varsity tennis. When she leaves home next year, she leaves not only a happy brother but a legacy of compassion that is a beautiful gift.
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