A Walkathon tradition was a show of unity and a day of fun on Saturday to support life-changing services for people with disabilities and youth at risk.
According to officials, Community Access Unlimited (CAU) celebrated the Ira Geller Walkathon on Saturday in Warinanco Park with hundreds of members, staff and supporters in attendance. CAU is based in Union County and works statewide to help integrate people with disabilities and youth at risk into the community through comprehensive supports.
Officials said, services include housing, vocational and life skills training, education programs, advocacy, community-based support and more.
Recognizing a history of helping people in Union County and beyond for more than 43 years, Union County commissioner Sergio Granados credited CAU’s work and impact under Executive Director Bernadette Griswold.
“Bernadette is truly an inspiration to Union County, she’s forward thinking…you continue to be an organization that is at the heart and soul of Union County,” Granados said.
The event is named in memory of Ira Geller, a former CAU member who had a passion for promoting self-advocacy with his peers and fundraising for the annual walk.
Sponsors for the event included Valley Bank, Innovative Benefit Planning and Paradigm Marketing.
Union County also provided event support for CAU.
Among the attendees were several members who have been a part of CAU services for over 30 years.
In that time they have found support to grow their independence and find work, a community, and positive relationships.
Mary Kurnos joined CAU as a member in 1987 and has been employed by the agency for nearly 30 years. She takes pride in her job and living independently.
“I pay my bills and take care of my home and my appointments on my own,” Kurnos said. “They helped me a lot…my first counselor showed me how to make out artificial checks.”
Sharon Mohry said she has been a CAU member for 30 years and had help with taking care of daily responsibilities to become more self-sufficient. She is also excited to be celebrating her first anniversary with her partner, who she met at CAU.
“They helped me with cooking and cleaning the apartment. Now I can do things on my own,” she said.
Mohry added that CAU events are a good opportunity for members to socialize and get outside.
“The walkathon helps us get out and do things and helps us be healthy by walking around the park,” she said.
Nicole Suber, a newer employee in the HR department at CAU, said that anyone considering working at the agency should know that they make a difference for members with housing and job placement supports, among other services.
She was attending her first walkathon on Saturday.
“It’s great to raise funds so the programs can continue to grow and there can be more activities for the members,” she said. “I also think it’s good to hang out with coworkers, the people you see every day.”
CAU holds several fundraising events through the year to support agency services for members. Supporters can follow Community Access Unlimited on Facebook to learn about services and future events. Information about jobs is available on the CAU website.